A big hat-tip to my mate Rob Saunders, Oxford historian of British politics, who points to a parliamentary speech by Lord Salisbury on distances and maps:
a great deal of misapprehension arises from the popular use of maps on a small scale. As with such maps you are able to put a thumb on India and a finger on Russia, some persons at once think that the political situation is alarming and that India must be looked to. If the noble Lord would use a larger map—say one on the scale of the Ordnance Map of England—he would find that the distance between Russia and British India is not to be measured by the finger and thumb, but by a rule. There are between them deserts and mountainous chains measured by thousands of miles, and these are serious obstacles to any advance by Russia, however well planned such an advance might be.(Hansard, 234, 11 June 1877, 1564-1565)
Inspired by this last week, I rattled off a short number on how geography can be a valuable concept tool as the weary and overstretched UK tries to define its national interests. Watch this space.