Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843

Matthew H. Edney, Author University of Chicago Press $42 (480p) ISBN 978-0-226-18487-6
Many of us trust maps to represent reality--the world, drawn to scale. University of Southern Maine geographer Edney demonstrates the naivete of this view with his scholarly history of British cartography during the days of the East India Company. In the 18th century, British soldiers, travelers and artists investigated the Indian landscape through erratic route surveys, producing maps and drawings based on subjective or erroneous observations. The Great Trigonometric Survey conducted by George Everest and others in the 19th century was supposed to replace this hodgepodge with accurate, scientific knowledge. A uniform map would facilitate an infrastructure of roads, railways, telegraphs and canals. Moreover, the British thought that the very discipline of surveying would teach the Indians ""habits of order, regularity, industry, and moral rectitude."" The dense detail here about triangulation will be more than the non-specialist wants to know. But this case study offers broadly applicable insights into the relationship between ideology, technology and politics. Surveying in India was thwarted over and over again by local resistance, prohibitive expense and lack of manpower, so that the veneer of orderly science masked underlying chaos. Nonetheless, the resultant maps hanging on office walls in London powerfully symbolized British territorial claims and later shaped the idea of India for the Independence movement. Carefully read, this is a tale of irony about wishful thinking and the limits of knowledge. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Show other formats
FORMATS
Paperback - 458 pages - 978-0-226-18488-3
Book - 467 pages - 978-0-226-18486-9
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.