Welcome to the website of the historical conference of GHD Ubbo Emmius!

On the 16th of June 2023 the Conference Committee of GHD Ubbo Emmius will organise a conference entitled Terra (In)Cognita: Mapping the Past, Present and Future.

This year, the conference will be dedicated to cartography in history. It will explore the evolution of the discipline, as well as its social, cultural and political implications. Exploration and exchange, conflict and commemoration, redrawing borders and pushing frontiers… Maps have always been snapshots of history, playing a key role in shaping perceptions and understanding of the world, both within and between cultures. The 2023 conference will guide you through centuries of cartographical developments, right up to the present day.


Ticket prices are €12,50 for Ubbo members and €15,- for non-Ubbo members.

About the Conference

The historical conference will take place on Friday 16th of June in the Van Swinderen Huys in Groningen. Walk-in with coffee/tea will be between 09:00-9:30 AM, the program will start at 9:30 AM until 17:00 PM.

The day-program is filled with three plenary lectures (60 min. each), with room for questions after each lecture. There will also be possibility for further questions at the end of the day. Furthermore, there will be two workshop rounds (45 min. each) where you can choose from three workshop options. For sign-up for the workshops, see the info further below.

In-between lectures and workshops will be coffee/tea breaks, and a delicious lunch, provided by Van Swinderen Huys, is also included. We would also like to invite everyone to a drink and further discussion afterwards!

Tickets cost €12,50 for Ubbo members and €15,- for non-Ubbo members, this is including lunch. You can order your ticket via www.ubbo-emmius.com.


Visit our social media pages for the most recent updates about the conference.

Day Program

09:00-09:30   Walk-in

09:30-09:45   Word of welcome


09:45-10:45  "The Cartographic Contribution to                              Defining the Continent of Europe                              since the Renaissance" (Lecture by                            Prof. dr. Michael Wintle)

11:00-12:00    "Known Unknowns in the North"                                (Lecture by Dr. Djoeke van Netten)

12:00-13:30 Lunch

13:30-14:15     First round of workshops

14:30-15:15    Second round of workshops

15:30-16:30    "Jerusalem Online: Critical                          Cartography for the Digital                        Age" (Lecture by Dr. Valentina                      Carraro)

16:30-17:00    Questions & Closing word

17:00-18:00    Drinks!


Lecture by Prof. dr. Michael Wintle

"The Cartographic Contribution to Defining the Continent of Europe since the Renaissance"

The self-image or identity of Europe is the primary subject of this lecture, but with a difference: it examines the visual representation, the graphic image of Europe, and in particular the representation of the continent on maps of the world. Europe has been variously represented as the demi-goddess Europa, a bull, a horse, a son of Noah, a Magus, a queen, and as the Empress of the World. But the representation of Europe both in and on maps has not always been the same. Before the Renaissance, Europe was not awarded a special place on maps; it was just one of several parts of the known world. But after about 1500, Europe was increasingly represented as the most important part of the globe, and in the imperial period of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that pre-eminence was even more pronounced. In particular the focus will fall on the rise of a Euro-assertive or Eurocentric self-image from the time of the Renaissance. A hierarchy of the continents was being trumpeted forth. Europe was at the top, and her values and virtues were being championed as inevitably superior. The favoured position of Europe in the world was seen as natural and self-evident because of her success in politics, war and economics, but also because her values, her civilization and not least her religion were (according to Europeans) unquestionably superior. The mechanisms of this representation on maps will be closely examined, ending with a warning about the acute Eurocentrism involved.

Lecture by Dr. Djoeke van Netten

"Known Unknowns in the North"

When maps of the Arctic appear in the news, we see geopolitics and climate change reduced to lines and colours. Those visualizations aim to clarify the present and warn about future developments. Mostly, we tend to trust the maps that are shown. The North Pole area is no Terra Incognita anymore. Not only since it is not terra (but aqua – be it partly in solid frozen form), also because the place has become known, discovered and charted by explorers, observation, measurements, research, and satellite images. In the Early Modern (western) past, the North was a very foreign country. Not completely incognita, but best described as a known unknown. A real place on earth, but one of which sources where scarce and disputed, to say the least. This, however, did not prevent 16 th-century cartographers, especially from the Low Countries, from presenting this area on their maps, where we find fascinating features like magnetic mountains, giant whirlpools, sea monsters, and pygmies. This talk traces what happened with them over the course of two centuries when English and Dutch ships started sailing there, first to find a route to Asia, later also to find whales to hunt. I interrogate Early Modern world maps and North Pole maps, wondering time and again where the knowledge they present came from, and in particular what their makers apparently knew and what they did not know for sure. More interesting than fully unknown territories, examining cartographic uncertainties provides insight into past mapping practices, and perhaps the results can in their turn inspire present and future mappings.

Lecture by Dr. Valentina Carraro

"Jerusalem Online: Critical Cartography for the Digital Age"

This presentation builds on my past research on the politics of web-maps in/of Jerusalem and discusses to what extent emerging digital technologies challenge or reproduce historical patterns in cartographic representation. Empirically, I focus here on the toponomy of Jerusalem on OpenStreetMap, a collaborative mapping platform that, despite being ostensibly open to contributions from everyone, offers a surprisingly one-sided representation of the city. The absence of Palestinian names from the map could be interpreted as an objective reflection of reality ‘on the ground’, or as a sign that Palestinian views continue to be excluded and erased. Instead, drawing on my experience working for a Palestinian activist group and on an analysis of historical sources, I argue that it points to ongoing confrontations over both the purpose of mapping and the city’s identity. Through its mapping standards, OpenStreetMap intervenes on these confrontations in ways that tend to consolidate the municipality’s naming power, but also to show its limits. More broadly, the research calls into question prevailing narratives that characterise digital mapping technologies as inherently objective and egalitarian, arguing that maps continue to be profoundly political.


Workshop by Jeroen Benders from the Special Collections at the University Library

"Historical Maps in the Low Countries before 1800"

This workshop aims at providing a basic theoretical background to historical maps as a source category, focusing on the critical use of maps as a means for and as objects of historical (landscape) research. Participants will work in small groups to implement these insights on maps from the UB Special Collections, and discuss the results during a plenary session.


Workshop by Cesco Homminga from Pub Heroes

"Fantasy Mapmaking"

Where the first fantasy map dates back to the 1500’s, the most famous example of a fictional map must be the map of Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Especially for fantasy lovers, finding a map in a novel is a true delight. Nowadays fantasy maps are used in many other media as well, from the overhead maps in video games, to hand-sketched maps used in tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons. But drawing a fantasy map can be its own reward. Creating a world of imagination with only pencil and paper is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. In this workshop, you get practical tips and tricks for fantasy map drawing, and you’ll put it in practice by drawing your very first (or second, tenth, hundredth…) map.


Workshop by Marie Keulen and Anne-Rieke van Schaik

"(Un)Mapping the Enslaved: Narratives of Slavery on Dutch Colonial Maps of the Atlantic World"

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many Dutch cartographers were commissioned to make maps of the colonies in the former colonies in the Atlantic world and the Dutch Caribbean (Surinam, Guyana). Where colonial maps are usually ‘silent’ on the practices of slavery, some maps explicitly tell the stories of military actions against enslaved people and slave rebellions. How are these colonial military expeditions against enslaved Africans represented on maps? To what extent are maps able to ‘tell’ these stories? What elements are mapped and what parts are (consciously) not mapped? In this workshop, we will work with maps that include references to these armed conflicts between enslaved people who ran away (Maroons) and the colonists. We will try to decipher the visual language of those maps and ‘read’ the narratives on slavery represented on those colonial maps. We will make use of a selection of maps catalogued and digitized by the Atlas of Mutual Heritage. 


Chair of the Day

Prof. dr. Luis Lobo-Guerrero


The conference will take place at the Van Swinderen Huys, Groningen  


Ticket prices are €12,50 for Ubbo members and €15,- for non-Ubbo members.

Past Conferences

June 16th, 2023: Terra (In)Cognita: Mapping the Past, Present and Future

June 10th, 2022: A Culinary Exchange: Food History through Time and Space

October 8th, 2021: The Long Century of Transformation: From Nation-State to a Federative Europe? (1848-Present)

June 19th, 2020: The Arab Spring: A Narrative of Fighting and Framing (cancelled due to Covid-19)

2019: Continuity and Discontinuity in Chinese History

2018: Capturing Calvinism: Calvin’s Conquest of the Dutch Community