The Imperial Archive
Literally meaning the science or practice of map-drawing (O.E.D.), cartography is integral to colonial and post-colonial cultures. The products of precise research, the first physically accurate maps were constructed in the early Renaissance with the development of navigational aids and effective mapping tools. The ‘scientific' cartography that followed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, paved the way for nineteenth century expansion. Initially created for mercenary pursuits, maps marked out trade routes between Europe and the trading posts of the East, benefiting merchants who called for new accurate maps. Gerardus Mercator, the first cartographer to use longitude and latitude for sailors, aided the pursuits of traders with his map of the world.
MERCATOR'S WORLD MAP 1583.
However, colonisation was often a result of commercially motivated journeys and explorers who prepared maps in the nineteenth century were not only influenced by the traditions of map-making but by the ideology of the expansionist colonialism which they served. The map was made to serve an agenda and in the imperial age it became “both a facilitator of the profit-making venture and a pawn in the struggle for domination”. 
The map not only reflects the world but also plays a fundamental role in shaping it  . Discoveries of foreign lands that are consequently named and marked along with boundary lines on maps, convert the map into a means of textualizing the spatial reality of the other (those lands/races that are not Europe/European). The naming of newly discovered land and its representation on a map is an actual and symbolic act of control. In many cases, the re naming of land already ‘discovered' by the indigenous peoples occurred.
AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL MAP : “an elaborate communication network that serves and supports an orally based culture”. 
Native people, whom many accounts portray as the explorer's guide to landmarks and places of interest later to be claimed as newly discovered by the European, were silenced, both metaphorically and literally by the cartographer and coloniser, alternative readings of space regarded as a threat to imperialism. Indigenous culture was thus re-inscribed during colonialism and Europeanised. Huggan describes such re-inscriptions as “superimpositions on a terrain already explored and chartered”. 
The idea of the new, scientific European discourse reinforces the notion of the land as a text. To read the land and place it on a map is to arrogate power over it, ignoring history and choosing the present and future as times for writing.  Terra nullius , literally the blank spaces left on early maps, represent the pages of a history written on by cartographer as an author writes a book. The ‘undiscovered' territories of the map prompted exploration and subsequent assumption of power by the West. In Heart of Darkness , Joseph Conrad depicts the power of maps in stirring the imagination. Marlow recalls his white European childhood in which he fantasised about exploring the blank spaces he found on maps:
“I would look for hours at South America , or Africa , or Australia , and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look like that) I would put my finger on it and say, when I grow up I will go there .” 
1824 AFRICA . NOTE GREEN SECTION ENTITLED “REGIONS UNEXPLORED”.
The nineteenth century was a period of colonial gain, but not necessarily economic growth. The European view of other cultures was generally unsympathetic, especially toward the end of the century as European power spread dramatically. Therefore, maps from the imperial period show European possessions and dependencies and nothing else.
Eurocentric maps are symbolic of Europe 's ‘othering' of the rest of the world. In the colonial period, maps were icons of imperial power. The globe built by James Wyld at the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851 was, for instance, 69 feet high and 40 feet in diameter. Jeremy Black comments that the sheer size of the globe and Wyld's notes to accompany his construction “revealed the extent to which maps provided striking images of power and opportunities to mediate on or exult in the purposes of power”.  Post-colonialism takes a counter-hegemonic position where Europe does not necessarily take a central position in the world map. The following example is McArthur's universal corrective map of the world, an inverted map where the South takes the prominent position instead of Europe.
THE FIRST MODERN “SOUTH-UP” MAP, PUBLISHED 1979.
Maps also allow for the inscription of an ideology. The blank space or terra nullius is filled in with fantasy and myth such as that of the cannibal who existed in the imagination of the European as the savage, primitive ‘other' from the time of Columbus. The perversity of Australia was speculated upon, suggestions circulating that in the antipodal region people walked upside down. However, as Ryan reminds one: “Mercator's formulation of the cartographic paradigm did not destroy the impulse to imagine or fantasize.”  Thus, regardless of scientific developments maps remained in the nineteenth century as the “projects of dreams or visions which, once signed in the name of a dominant culture, acquire the spurious badge of truth”.  Thus, the indigenous peoples more regularly figure as cannibals than as those who guided the explorer and cartographer through their native land.
Implicit in the relationship between map and reader is the potential for deconstruction. Placing cartography in a post-colonial context, it is clear that the map is a distortion of reality and that the only accurate representation of territory is an identical copy of reality itself. The colonial cartographers tended towards simplification, regarding the world as an object. Huggan comments: “maps, by their very nature, are never more than approximations of the environments they purport to represent”.  Thus, maps controlled by human interests, as they are in a colonial context are always influenced by social relations and cultural attitudes and can never be exact or objective.
 Graham Huggan. Territorial disputes: maps and mapping strategies in contemporary Canadian and Australian fiction, 9.
 Nicholas Dunlop. ‘Re-inscribing the map: Cartographic discourse in the fiction of Peter Carey and David Malouf.', 15.
 Huggan, 75.
 Huggan, 75.
 Simon Ryan, “Inscribing the Emptiness: Cartography, exploration and the -construction of Australia .” Describing Empire: Post-colonialism and textuality . Eds. Chris Tiffin and Alan Lawson, 126.
 Heart of Darkness , 11.
 “Nationalism and Eurocentrism in Nineteenth-century Historical Atlases.” Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past , 63.
 Ryan, 121.
 Huggan, 80.
|© The Imperial Archive. Material not to be reproduced without permission|