Tag Archives: 19th century

The Spanish American Wars of Independence

america vintage map posterMap of America, 1803.

The early 19th century was a time of change in Latin America as the Spanish American wars of independence (1809-1826) completely reshaped the region. The political instability in Spain caused by Napoleon’s invasion gave rise to conflicts in the Spanish colonies in Southern America. The American Revolution (1771-1781) and the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) were the other two key factors that inspired the process of Latin American decolonization. During the wars, the Americans of Spanish Ancestry and the Mestizos gradually took over the administration originally controlled by Spanish-born officers. The Spanish resistance in America, especially in the regions of what are today Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Argentina created self-governing juntas and fought against the royalists. The conflicts resulted in the creation of the independent states that make up Latin America today.

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Africa’s Inland Still to Be Explored

africa vintage map poster

Map of Africa, Southern Europe and the Middle East, 1803.

In 1800, Egypt was under Napoleonic occupation and other parts of the Northern Africa were controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The rest of the continent was comprised of local kingdoms such as Buganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in South East Africa and included the Sokoto, the Oyo, and Benin in West Africa. Africa’s coastal areas were well mapped due to the European trade stations and frequent voyages along the coast. However, this was not the case for the continent’s inland; large areas remained unexplored due to difficult accessibility, the disapproval of the local population, and numerous tropical diseases. The major progress in European explorations of Africa in the mid-19th century was partly a consequence of the recent discoveries in medicine (quinine) and the weapon industry. The explorations proved that Africa’s interior was rich in raw materials and a real scramble to grab as large a slice of the continent as possible was started by European competitors. This period in the continent’s history is often referred to as the Scramble of Africa.

Travels into the interior of Africa” by the British explorer Mungo Park narrates an early attempt to map the continent’s inland.

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The Four Irish Provinces

ireland vintage map reproduction

Map of Ireland, 1834.

This map shows the administrative division of Ireland in 1840s. There are four provinces depicted: Connacht (marked in green), Leinster (pink), Munster (yellow) and Ulster (orange). This division is based on the historical Irish kingdoms. All of them feature their own unique emblem from medieval times. A concept called “Dindsenchas” emerged in early Irish literature as a poetic description of a place. According to one of these texts, the four kingdoms had the following characteristics:

Connacht is the seat of wisdom and learning; Leinster is the seat of prosperity and hospitality; Ulster is the seat of bravery and valour while Munster is the seat of music and the art.

Neil Hegarty’s: “The Story of Ireland: A History of the Irish People” provides an excellent guide to Irish history.

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Antarctica Yet To Be Discovered

antarctica vintage map reproduction

Map of the South Pole and the Adjoining Regions, 1803.

Long before Antarctica had been explored as a continent, there was frequent speculation about Terra Australia (Southern Land), a vast landmass located in the very south of the Earth, which balanced the continents in the northern hemisphere.

When circumnavigating the southernmost point of the South American mainland in 1520, Ferdinand Magellan believed that the land he was passing on the left side was actually an extension of the unexplored southern land. In reality, what he actually saw were the islands of Tiera del Fuego, the southernmost part of what is today Argentina. When Australia was discovered at the beginning of the 17th century, it was believed to be part of the Terra Australis. It was Abel Tasman who, about forty years later, proved that Australia was separated from the southern continent by the sea.

Captain James Cook first crossed the Antarctic Circle in 1772. Cook mapped a large part of the Southern Pacific and the Atlantic very well during his voyages and proved that Tiera del Fuego and New Zealand were not one landmass but were separated by the sea — a large ocean. It is now clear that Cook was very close to Antarctica and probably got as close as 240km (150miles) from the continent’s mainland. However, he never landed on its shores nor sighted land, as he was stopped by floating ice on his way further south. This is why this map, printed 30 years after his voyages, still does not depict the continent. Nevertheless, there are four zigzag lines representing Cook’s attempts to discover the southern continent, two of which can be seen within the Antarctic Circle.

Antarctica was finally discovered a couple of years later; the first sighting is documented in 1819 and the first landing documented in 1821.

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The Quest for the Northwest Passage Continues

arctic vintage map reproduction

Map of the North Pole and the Adjoining Regions of Europe, Asia and North America, 1803.

This map shows the Arctic region in the early 19th century. Whereas the northernmost parts of Europe and Russia had already been well mapped when the map was first released in 1803, the northern coastline of North America is only marked by a dotted line suggesting the probable position of the coastline.

The Northwest Passage that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans had been quested for centuries; there had been a number of voyages in the area aiming to explore the passage. The explorers Robert Bylot, Henry Hudson, and William Baffin mapped a large part of what is now eastern Canada in the early 17th century. Another important step in mapping this area was done by Samuel Hearne who was the first European to cross northern Canada to the Arctic Ocean shore in 1774. A more detailed mapping of the region, however, did not take place until the mid-19th century and it was not until 1903 – one hundred years after this map was printed – that the famous Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen set off on his voyage to be the first human in recorded history to complete the Northwest Passage.

The remoteness and the complicated access to the region are clearly described in Samuel Hearne’s memoirs: “A Journey to the Northern Ocean: the Adventures of Samuel Hearne“.

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The First Circumnavigation of Australia

vintage map reproduction australia south east asiaMap of Southeast Asia and Australia, 1803.

This map depicts Southeast Asia and Australia as it was known to European mapmakers in 1803. There were several voyages aimed at exploring and mapping the continent; starting with Willem Janszoon who, as the first European, landed on Australia’s Cape York Peninsula in 1606, followed by Dirk Hartog’s navigation to the coast of what is today the North West Division of Western Australia in 1616 and Abel Tasman’s second voyage to map the continent’s northern coastline in 1644. The eastern coast was charted by Captain James Cook in 1770. The entire coastline had not been drawn into maps before the first voyage of Captain Matthew Flinders (1801-1802) during which he mapped the remaining part of the southern coast and proved that Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) was separated from Australia by a strait, named after Flinders’ fellow navigator George Bass. The strait is already depicted in this map. During his second voyage in 1803, Flinders circumnavigated Australia as the first European. After completing the circumnavigation, Flinders set off to sail back to England. However, he spent six years in French captivity after he stopped in Mauritius because of the poor condition of his vessel.

The life story of this famous navigator and cartographer is captured in Miriam Estensen’s “Mathew Flinders: The Life of Mathew Flinders“.

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Richard Wagner’s Bayern

bayern bavaria vintage map

Topograpahic Maps of Bayern / Bavaria – Southern and Northern Part, 1862 and 1863.

At the time this map was first printed, Bavaria was a kingdom established after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire and remained an independent monarchy until 1866. During its independence, Bavaria quickly became a centre of art and culture. One of the most important figures in Bavarian (and German) cultural life of that era was the composer Richard Wagner. He brought new ideas into the art of opera and is also known for writing both the music and the lyrics for all his work. Wagner adapted stories from German history into his work. The German mythology and the origins of the German nation were themes elaborated on in a series of four operas called the Ring of the Nibelung. Due to the themes he used, Wagner’s work became an instrument of Nazi propaganda in the 1930s. Large parts of Wagner’s work also outline Scandinavian mythology.

The life of this German composer is fully described in the biography: “Richard Wagner: A Life in Music” by Martin Goeck.

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Denmark and Its Colonies in 1870s

map decor: vintage map reproduction of denmark

Map of Denmark and Its Colonies at That Time, 1872

In 1872 when this map was first printed, Denmark was recovering from the Schleswig wars, in which Schleswig-Holstein, now a German federal state, gained full independence from Denmark. Apart from Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, the map shows the Danish Colonial Empire at that time: The Danish West Indies (now the United States Virgin Islands) in the Caribbean, Iceland (gained independence in 1944), Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The latter two countries listed remain part of the Kingdom of Denmark; however, full independence has been granted to both.

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