10 Historical and Trade Route Maps of Southeast Asia

The need for good maps in Asia began early in history thanks to extensive overland and maritime trading between the many states and kingdoms… and when looking at more modern maps of the Far East and Southeast Asia you will soon run into the history of the East India Companies in the region.

Here are some cartographic resources which reveal the companies’ and Western colonial powers’ own cartography as well as a selection of other useful maps and illustrations of trade routes.

The link to the information is given under each image. Where a high resolution version of the map is available online publicly I’ve linked from our smaller image here to the main file.

1. Dutch East India Company trade network in the 18th Century

Regional trade and indications of main export/import products

VOC i.e. Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-indische Compagnie) trade routes map by Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Dept. of Global Studies & Geography, Hofstra University

2. 1783 Bonne Map of India, Southeast Asia, and East Indies

The map below includes extensive inland detail: it was drawn by Rigobert Bonne for Lattre’s Atlas Moderne.

Rigobert Bonne’s 1783 map of India, Southeast Asia and the east Indies. – See more at: http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/IndiaSoutheastAsia-bonne-1783#sthash.Y4LUKjyd.dpuf

Geographicus.com has an extensive gallery of antique maps for sale, see this page for the Antique maps of the East Indies.

3. Pinkerton’s 1818 map of the East Indies

This map is a copperplate engraving showing the “East India Isles” showing the south of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Indonesia and the Philippines.

The map shows the island of Rakata (on the map “Rakama”) which was where Krakatoa erupted in 1883, changing that part of the map!

Pinkerton, J., A Modern Atlas, from the Lates and Best Authorities, Exhibiting the Various Divisions of the World with its chief Empires, Kingdoms, and States; in Sixty Maps, carefully reduced from the Larges and Most Authentic Sources. 1818, Philadelphia, Thomas Dobson Edition. — via Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1818_Pinkerton_Map_of_the_East_Indies_and_Southeast_Asia_(Singapore,_Borneo,_Java,_Sumatra,_Thailand_-_Geographicus_-_EastIndiaIslands-pinkerton-1818.jpg

The Dutch East India Company colonies were nationalized in 1800 . Read more about the trading and colonial history of the “Dutch East Indies” on Wikipedia.

4. 1840 Map of Dutch Colonial Possessions

In the post-Napoleonic era, the Kingdom of the Netherlands steadily expanded its colonies in the region of modern-day Indonesia.

Dutch East Indies, Curacao and Dependencies, Suriname, and Dutch Gold Coast in 1840 — Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps, Inc., taken from Nieuwe atlas van het Koningryk der Nederlanden, benevens het Groot-Hertogdom Luxemburg, het Hertogdom Limburg en de Nederlandsche Bezittingen ten Oosten en ten Westen der Kaap de Goede Hoop

Read more about the history of the Dutch imperial / colonial era on Wikipedia here.

5. The growth of British East India Company territories 1765-1857

The following maps from the 1907 Imperial Gazetteer of India illustrate the expanding areas of control of the East India Company in the Indian Subcontinent.

Territories of the British East India Company (highlighted in pink) in 1765 and 1805 Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:India1765and1805b.jpg
Territories of the British East India Company (highlighted in pink) in 1837 and 1857 Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:India1837to1857.jpg

Originally under the “English East India Company”, founded in 1600, the trading activities of the British in India quickly became about asserting territorial control. Read more about “Company rule in India” at Wikipedia here.

6. 1864 Johnson and Ward map of “Hindostan; or British India”

This map shows the extent of “The Raj” at its height.

Johnson’s 1864 “Hindostan” map – image via http://westerncivguides.umwblogs.org/2013/12/06/the-british-in-india/

Full details about the above map and the 1864 Johnson’s New Illustrated Family Atlas can be found here on David Ramsey Map Collection site.

A short historical introduction to the history of the British in India can be found on umwblogs.org here.

7. Imperial Gazetteer of India (c1910) maps of Burma

The following map images link directly to their full size images hosted by the University of Chicago:

Burma: Northern Section – map from Imperial Gazetteer of Burma circa 1910
Burma: Central Section – map from Imperial Gazetteer of Burma circa 1910
Burma: Southern Section – map from Imperial Gazetteer of Burma circa 1910

Imperial gazetteer of India maps resource at the University of Chicago Digital South Asia Library.

Zum.de has an authoritative map-based guide to the extent of the national boundaries of Burma since the 16th century here.

8. Early Southeast Asian trade routes

Long before the Europeans’ imperial ambitions, of course, were local empires. From the 9th century to the 13th century, an important seagoing power were  the Cholas. During the same period, maritime trade routes developed between kingdoms of Srivijaya, Kediri, Khmer, and Champa:

Trade routes of Southeast Asia in the 12th and 13th centuries — via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Southeast_Asia_trade_route_map_XIIcentury.jpg


9. Medieval and Portuguese commerce in Southeast Asia

Contemporary mapping from the era of Portuguese seafaring is a fascinating topic in itself.

In the map below we can see some of the early map conceptions of the coasts of Southeast Asia, and then some modern atlas explanations of trading routes.

Mercator map of “India Orientalis”, Amsterdam 1619

Have a look at the very extensive and interesting collection of old maps of Southeast Asia from Xu Tram Huong here.

Portuguese Colonial Dominions 1498-1580, from Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd — via http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_shepherd_1923.html
Mediaeval Commerce in Asia, from Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd — via http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_shepherd_1923.html


10. The Selden Map of China

This 17th century Chinese map, “rediscovered” in a collection in 2008 and much discussed by historians, shows Southeast Asia to a good degree of accuracy. It was probably copied from Japanese and Portuguese navigation maps of the time.

The Selden map via book review of “Mr Selden’s Map of China” by Timothy Brook here: http://arts.nationalpost.com/2013/10/18/open-book-mr-seldens-map-of-china-by-timothy-brook/

Read more about the Selden map in “Treasures of the Bodleian” here.