Contact Us

South Asia

A Map of the East Indies and the Adjacent Countries ... Settlements, Factories and Territories. Herman Moll. Place of publication unknown, ca. 1715
This hand-colored map of the East Indies from 1715 shows important European trading posts in India and in Southeast Asia, including city plan insets. The inset of Fort St. George (Chennai) identifies separate “Black town,” “White town,” and native, English, Jewish, and Armenian burial places.
A map of the continent of the East-Indies… Herman Moll. London: 1736
Herman Moll's 1736 map of the continent of the East-Indies is a central example of his work as a cartographer for the British East India trading company. It indicates territories, settlements, and factories managed by the English, French, Dutch, Danish and Portuguese.
British Possessions in the Indian Seas. A. Fullarton and Company. London and Edinburgh: 1872
A map showing British colonies around the Indian Ocean, focusing on the island of Ceylon, but also including Malacca, Singapore, Labouan, and the Malay Peninsula. The maps are surrounded by sketches of the people of these lands engaging with their environment.

  Colonizing countries from Europe governed by garnering and controlling space, aided by carefully detailed maps. These maps demonstrate a stark difference in the perception of the land over 150 years.

Herman Moll was the one of the leading cartographers of the early eighteenth century. He was a strong proponent of overseas expansion by the British East India Company in South and Southeast Asia. The commercial activities of the East India Company were immense sources of wealth in Britain at the time. Moll’s maps were practical tools of expansion, looking at the region through the lens of trading posts. For instance, in his 1736 map of the “Continent of the East-Indies,” Trankebar [sic] is marked as a Dutch fort. Pondicheri [sic] is French. Fort St. George (now Chennai) is British. Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is labeled as an island that is “now wholly in possession of the Dutch.”

But the tone changes 150 years later in Archibald Fullarton’s map. Fullarton was a prolific cartographer of the nineteenth century, known for the decorative work on his maps. Fullarton’s map marks a shift in focus, from overseas trade to British colonialism. In his 1872 map “British Possessions in the Indian Seas,” he emphasizes the development of a society that included both British colonists and native peoples.

— Arjun Balasingam, Undergraduate in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, ’18,  Anna Spudich, Stanford Researcher (retired), and Venkat    Srinivasan, SLAC staff