Mapping myths: the fantastic geography of the Great Southern Continent, 1760-1777

Collingridge, Vanessa Jane (2017) Mapping myths: the fantastic geography of the Great Southern Continent, 1760-1777. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2017CollingridgePhD.pdf] PDF
Download (7MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This research explores the (re)production and circulation of geographical knowledge about the conjectured Great Southern Continent – one of the most enduring geographical ideas in the western world despite the fact that it did not exist, other than in books, maps and the human mind. The study examines how the fantastic Continent managed to survive - and even thrive – as an imaginary in Britain despite the absence of any hard evidence. The selected timeframe 1760-1777 covers a period of considerable flux in terms of cultural, imperial and global identities, witnessing a rapid expansion in geographical knowledge, provided in part by the voyages of Captain James Cook and the unprecedented rise of the British popular press who deliver this ‘news’ to the public. Using the twin archives of The Gentleman’s Magazine and daily, tri-weekly and weekly newspapers, this study critically examines the ways in which the landscapes of the Continent were variously imagined, represented and understood by the British public over the final seventeen years of the its ‘life’, ‘death’ and ‘re-birth’ as the Antarctic. Specifically, it interrogates the mechanisms used by the press to (re)produce a public imaginary for the emerging South, and the roles played by the Continent in mid-to-late eighteenth century polite society. The thesis shows how the Continent’s status as an enduring geographical myth renders it an important touchstone in an imaginative global cartography held by the eighteenth century British public. It illustrates how external spaces are powerful constructs for internal identities and epistemologies. The ultimate revelation that this provincea aurea was a barren wilderness of sea and ice triggered arguably one the most important cultural shifts in the Western geographical and imperial imagination since the discovery of the Americas – and, the thesis contends, provided an important proving ground in the battle between traditional scholarly speculation and the empiricism characterising the new scientific method.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Hansom, Dr. Jim and Lorimer, Prof. Hayden
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Dr Vanessa Collingridge
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8601
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2017 13:45
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2017 11:46

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year