Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765–1843
Matthew H. Edney
University of Chicago Press, 1997
ISBN 978-0-226-18487-6 cloth; 978-0-226-18488-3 paper; 978-0-226-18486-9 e-book
[New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 019–565172–3]
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A detailed study of why the British sought to map India in the way that they did, with a heavy emphasis on the grand scientific work of the Great Trigonometrical Survey. The book’s dates cover the period from James Rennell’s initial surveys of Bengal to the end of George Everest’s tenure as Surveyor General of India and Superintendent of the GTS. It probes the tension between the desire and the inability of the British to create a uniform and detailed archive of spatial knowledge of South Asia, and the compromises that resulted (i.e., the “Atlas of India”).
Part One. Introduction
1. The Ideologies and Practices of Mapping and Imperialism
• Laying out the tension between the ideal of a perfect spatial archive and the inability of the British to achieve it.
Part Two. The Enlightenment Construction of Geographical Knowledge
2. Observation and Representation
• the techniques of geography as applied by the British in India, especially in terms of the “imperial picturesque.”
3. Surveying and Map-Making
• the mapping practices applied to South Asia by the British when indigenous sources were deemed incompetent, with particular emphasis on the route survey and on the adoption of triangulation as a technological fix for creating a perfect spatial archive.
Part Three. Institutional Structures and Cartographic Anarchy
4. Structural Constraints of the East India Company's Administration
• the bureaucratic/financial system and its failure to provide the capacity to implement systematic field surveys; the workings of patronage; information management.
5. Cartographic Anarchy and System in Madras, 1790-1810
• worked example of the problems outlined in Chapter 4 in the particular context of the incorporation of extensive territories within Madras Presidency. Several attempts were made to establish systematic surveys (including the GTS) but the control of the archive remained an office function.
Part Four. The Great Trigonometrical Survey and Cartographic System
6. Institutions for Mapping all British India, 1814-23
• the efforts of the Government of India to overcome the problems outlined in Part Three. The tension between the field work of the GTS and the office work of the Surveyor General, gave rise to the compromise of the “Atlas of India.”
7. Triangulation, the Cartographic Panacea, 1825-32
• the triumph of the GTS as the accepted foundation for a systematic spatial archive of British India.
8. The Final Compromise: Triangulation and Archive
• the problems faced by implementing a systematic survey of India based on the GTS, leading to still further compromises.
Part Five. Cartography, Science, and the Representation of Empire
9. Scientific Practice: Incorporating the Rationality of Empire
• the social construction of imperial science, of the colonial Other, and the imperial Self
10. Cartographic Practice: Inscribing an Imperial Space
• reflections on imperial mapping and power, resistance, and the representation of Imperial India