Fluid Borders: Rethinking Historical Geography and Fixed Map Boundaries in Contested Regions

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This article introduces a quantitative methodology for analyzing contested map borders. The article applies the new analytical technique to a data set of thirty maps showing Bulgaria in ca. 800 CE, a disputed state and period in medieval historiography with relevance to modern national politics and territorial claims. Based on the data set, we generate a series of new maps that make explicit the fluid medieval boundaries and general disagreement among geographers and historiographers. Our analysis begins with a simple point-in-polygon procedure to create a majority map that depicts the points included within the borders of the Bulgarian polity in sixteen or more of the maps (>50 percent). The majority map is then combined with percentage maps, confidence interval map boundaries, and cluster maps. The confidence interval maps are created via a spatial bootstrapping procedure and measure the uncertainty in the majority map. The cluster maps are developed via a radial basis function and provide insight into the potential affectivity based on the cartographers' countries of origin. The final map reflects the general modern consensus of the borders of the Bulgarian polity around 800 CE. Besides its quantitative contribution to medieval and modern cartographic, historiographical, and political debates, this article has developed a widely applicable methodology for synthesizing map borders and territories in cases of cartographic disagreement.


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