To explain Trump, Brexit, Timothy McVeigh, ISIS, and rising nationalist parties worldwide, Mishra traces globalization and its discontents back to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. His masterly synthesis of ideologies, movements, and political philosophies illustrates that modernity is a messy and uneven process. Even in the West, its transformation of societies has been disruptive and incomplete; as it’s reached other parts of the world, the jolt has been greater and all the more violent for the delay. While globalization has benefitted some, it’s left out many, and disappointed more. The continuous resentment it’s fueled hits especially hard where people have not only seen the promise of the new pass them by, but have lost the old traditions and faiths that kept life stable. With nothing to fall back on, many invent a glorious, mythic past, and commit themselves to regaining it—even as they use modern means and violence to do so. Mishra discusses Rousseau, Tocqueville, Bakunin, the German Romantics, Russian revolutionaries, and Italian Futurists in depth, clarifying the connections among them, and between their times and ours. His always telling and frequently shocking quotations not only elucidate the past but often sound like what we’re hearing today. The “age of anger” that started with modernity’s glittering promise isn’t over yet.
When maps aren’t simply telling you how to get from here to there, they make political statements, lay out the terrain of history, show you the landscape of the imagination, play games—and always look beautiful. The Curious Map Book (Chicago, $45) is a showcase of such “cartographic curiosities.” Assembled by Ashley Baynton-Williams, a British antiquarian map dealer, the survey starts with a 1493 world map that’s also a chart of Western humanism, depicting the Earth divided in four parts, one for each of Noah’s sons, with side trips into medieval legend and classical myth. A 1518 rendering of Utopia depicts the island with a death’s head: map as memento mori. In human shape, maps were allegories and caricatures; as animals, they united disparate regions into the body of a fierce lion or warned of grasping imperial ambitions, showing Russia in 1877 as an octopus. Other maps chart the course of love, and many play games. The first board games, circa 1588, were maps, with players throwing dice and racing each other around a hemisphere. Some required gambling, others doubled as Trivial Pursuit, requiring players to recite facts about the regions they landed on. Maps became jigsaw puzzles in the 18th century, and one impressive picture here shows a stunning 1866 globe jigsaw. A tribute to human wit and ingenuity, these selections have an illuminating and unobtrusive guide in Baynton-Williams, whose succinct commentary profiles the mapmakers and explains their methods and materials.