Map of Hindoostan, Farther India, China, and Tibet by Mitchell, 1870
Map of Hindoostan, Farther India, China, and Tibet engraved by W. Williams for Mitchell's New General Atlas, 1870.
This map from 1870 reflects the colonial situation in Asia at the time. India and Burma were under the control of Great Britain, while Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam were under France's ever tightening grip. Siam, Tibet, and China,though they remained uncolonized they struggled to resist European encroachment into their territories. Modern day boundaries and several of the issues these countries face today are tied to this era of colonization.
British India, or the British Raj, refers to the period in which India was ruled by Great Britain. In 1858, the Crown took over the land, which had previously been held by the East India Company following the Sepoy Mutiny. The Company had been colonizing the area since it was granted a charter in 1600. In addition to the land-holdings of the East India company, British India included the princely states and Lower Burma, until 1886 when it was merged with Upper Burma to form a separate Burmese colony. Ceylon was incorporated into the colony in 1802. The emergence of an Indian middle class and various nationalist groups placed pressure on the government for a greater degree of self-rule. Independence was granted in 1947 when British India was partitioned into the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India. Provinces with a Hindu majority remained part of India, while areas with a Muslim majority became Pakistan. However West and East Pakistan were separated from each other and East Pakistan gained independence in 1971 becoming Bangladesh.
French Indochina was officially formed in 1887 as a federation between the French protectorates of Tonkin, Annam, Cochinchina, and Cambodia. Laos was added in 1893, though it remained the least developed of the colonies. French involvement began in what is now Vietnam in 1858. From that point on France gained control over more and more territory. During World War II the area was occupied by Japan. By 1954, all the colonies had gained independence. However, each state has endured a number of internal conflicts since then, with the entire region being affected by the Vietnam War. Present day Vietnam incorporates Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina, though pat of Cochinchina had long been part of Cambodia. The governments of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have changed many times and remain vulnerable.
China is one of the world's oldest civilizations. Written history goes back as far as the Shang Dynasty, which emerged around 1700 BC. Since then it has experienced periods of unity under strong centralized governments interrupted by eras of fragmented and warring states. China has experienced several golden ages marked by advances in science and technology as well as a flourishing of art and culture. The reunification of China under Qin Shi Huang marked the beginning of Imperial China under the Qin Dynasty. China has been governed by several dynasties, with the largest and last being the Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1644 until 1911. The Republic of China was then formed, but the People’s Republic of China replaced it in 1949, after a long civil war. However, Taiwan and other outlying areas are still controlled by the Republic, which maintains it is the rightful government of China.
Tibet is currently an autonomous region in China. However, the Tibetan Government-in-exile, lead by the 14th Dalai Lama, continues to advocate for Tibetan independence. The relationship between Tibet and China is complex. After the Qing Dynasty was deposed, Tibet proclaimed itself from China in 1913 and was de facto independent for thirty-six years. However, it was never recognized as such by either Chinese government. Tibetan Buddhism is closely tied to the regions history and has shaped Tibet’s cultural identity.
Samuel Augustus Mitchell (1792-1868) turned his attention to mapmaking in the 1830s due to his dissatisfaction with available school maps. He developed a map publishing business that would make him and later his son the most prominent American map publishers of the nineteenth century. This map was published in Mitchell's New General Atlas, under the direction of his son, Samuel Augustus Mitchell, Jr.
- Naomi Bean