Abstract：Far from the mimic of reality，maps are human’s proactive interpretation of a geographical space. Such an interpretation determines how space is used and occupied. Modern colonial empires were shaped during the“Age of Discovery”. When space on the earth was re-interpreted，empires began their occupation and exploitation of the new territories. As a result，the representative
cartographic works in sixteenth to nineteenth century Europe not only reflect
novel geographic knowledge of the colonial empires but also demonstrate their
power and ideology. From the perspective of the map，this article explores the
spatial mechanism of powers of colonialism，imperialism，and international law.
From exploring new trade routes to occupying colonies，the rise of modern empires went hand in hand with the early economic globalization. Unlike the traditional empires，the modern colonial empires were originated from a new acknowledgment of global geography. Therefore，their imperialist enterprise contained a series of actions aiming to reconstruct the spatial order. Spaces on the globe were generally incorporated into the capitalist system of production. In the chain of production，transportation，and consumption，global spaces were reorganized into a hierarchical relationship. European international law emerged and developed at the same time，supporting and defending such a hierarchy. The development of cartography from fifteenth century Europe became the most vividly visual representation of these historical changes.