Britain Colonial Mapping of Western Palestine in the Ottoman period
The Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) of Great Britain conducted an extensive survey of Western Palestine from 1872-1877, during the Ottoman period. While the fund was headed by religious figures and academics, there was also involvement from the British government. Essentially, the religious and academic associations of the fund may have served as a front to allow the British government to collect intelligence on the region. For example, the British Foreign Office had documented involvement in the production and funding of the survey project, which increased with the Russo-Turkian War (1877-78). This survey was the most detailed and technologically advanced to date and was ultimately employed by the British in their invasion of Palestine in WWI.
In addition to its attention to topographic detail, this mapping project is notable for its area of focus. Unlike other maps produced by Western colonial powers at the time, such as France and Germany, this map focuses exclusively on an area west of the Jordan river. Uncannily, its borders resemble those of the future British Mandate (1920-1948). The survey is also careful to include the significant holy sites of the New Testament.
After the maps production, the British Foreign Office required that the PEF delay the publication of the maps for a year to control the dispersal of sensitive intelligence information.
Thus, these maps should be evaluated both as products of academic and religious scholarship and as tools in the British colonial enterprise.
This map layer depicts Western Palestine at the time of the Old Testament. It sources its information primarily in the book of Joshua which chronicles the Israelites conquering and settling the Holy Land. However, there are additional place names,…
This map presents the place names of western Palestine in Arabic and explains their meaning in a key on the side. It also marks the location of Arabic villages, churches and mosques. It is a notable that this map is included to the Palestine…
This is a detailed survey map of the west half of Palestine. It represents the composite of 26 survey sheets. This map was useful to the British in their invasion of Palestine in WWI. It includes place names as well as pink shading for more densely…
Key accompanying Composite Map of Western Palestine by the PEF