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Elri Liebenberg:

The mapping of South Africa under British rule from 1795–1910

Cartographica Helvetica 30 (2004) 23–34


The merger of the four territories Cape Colony, Orange River Colony, Natal and Transvaal to the autonomous Union of South Africa in 1910 marked the end of the direct British colonial rule. When Great Britain first took over the rule of the Cape Colony in 1795, the area was practically unmapped. Except for cadastral maps established by the general land surveyor and a few maps by Grantham, Mair, Herfst, Jeppe, Merensky or Troye, nothing much had changed in the Cape Colony until the Second Boer War broke out in 1899.

The reason can be found in the British colonial policy, which constantly restricted expenditures for the colonies and left all surveying and mapping work up to the colonies. For these chronically financially weak colonies, producing topographic maps did not seem a necessity, so that hardly any financial expenditures were made for maps or for the necessary trigonometric network. It was only with the outbreak of the Second Boer War that Great Britain became painfully aware of this shortfall. Even in 1910, South Africa had not been mapped with respect to the standards of that time.

Bibliographic note

  • Article translated from English by Imre Josef Demhardt, Wiesbaden.

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