Making an Atlas of Islam
Francis Robinson explains how his perception of Islam is reflected in his book, Atlas of the Islamic World since 1500 (Phaidon, 1982).
Why don't you do an Atlas of the Islamic world? It was an editor's siren voice. He was producing a series of historical and cultural atlases published by the Oxford house of Phaidon. Further enquiry revealed that what the editor had in mind was not just an atlas of fifty or so maps but more a companion to Islamic civilisation using 100,000 words and over 400 illustrations. The idea was challenging; not much persuasion was required. But there was a problem; the space offered scarcely seemed adequate to cover fourteen centuries of the history of a civilisation which now embraces one-fifth of the world's population. We agreed that two volumes were needed, one which would cover the years from the time of the Prophet Muhammad to the decline of Mongol dominance, and a second which would deal with the period from the rise of three great Muslim empires around 1500 down to the present day. My preference and that of the publisher dictated that we would begin with volume two.