Drawing Colonial Lines: Between Armchair Cartography and On-Site Observation

Philipp Meyer (SFB 1199 & IfL)

Publication Date

March 2022








Mapping Africa and Asia

Additional Information


On May 16, 1893, the cartographer Paul Langhans (1867–1952) wrote to German explorer Joachim Graf von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth (1857–1924), a former farmer in the Orange Free State and colonial politician: “Highly esteemed Count! […] The crossing of Neu-Mecklenburg in 1:200,000 is now in autography, […].I request a short text for the map, according to which also the lettering of the map would have to be completed, otherwise it would look far too empty” (Langhans 1893). The then still relatively young cartographer Langhans was a native of Hamburg and had already obtained material about areas unknown to Europeans even when he was still in secondary school. He contacted explorers directly at the port and visualized the material they provided in map form. After studying in Leipzig and Kiel, Langhans joined the publishing house of Justus Perthes in Gotha in 1889 and quickly came to be seen as a possible successor to the well-known cartographer and virtuoso compiler of route surveys Bruno Hassenstein (1839–1902).

Biographical Note

Philipp Meyer (SFB 1199 & Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde, Leipzig, Germany)

Philipp Meyer studied History and Comparative Literature as well as Journalism at Leipzig University and the University Avignon. Since 2018 he is a researcher at IfL, before he worked there as an research assitant.