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Mapping in colonial times: La Côte française des Somalis et contrées avoisinantes by Alexandre Meunier (1908-1909)

Cartographier en période coloniale : La Côte française des Somalis et contrées avoisinantes par Alexandre Meunier (1908-1909)
Cartografiando en el periodo colonial: La Côte française des Somalis et contrées avoisinantes por Alexandre Meunier (1908-1909)
Axel Baudouin

Résumés

Alexandre Meunier (1870-1942), cartographe, oublié de nos jours, travaillait au Service géographique des colonies du ministère des colonies et contribua intensément à la production de cartes de l’empire colonial français. Parmi ces cartes, trois d’entre elles (Djibouti, Harrar et Addis Ababa) ont été publiées en 1908 et 1909 dans La Côte française des Somalis et contrées avoisinantes. L’analyse des cartes porte sur leur conception graphique" et leur contenu thématique, dans le cadre du discours colonial de l’époque. Sont également pris en compte le contexte géopolitique et les aspects institutionnels de la production des cartes. Au-delà de la volonté de donner à Alexandre Meunier une place qu’il devrait avoir dans l’histoire de la cartographie, cet article cherche à montrer l’originalité de ce type de carte produit à l’apogée de la conquête coloniale dans la Corne de l’Afrique, où l’Italie, la Grande Bretagne et la France rivalisaient dans leurs appétits sur l’Abyssinie. Ainsi, quelques cartes à première vue assez ordinaires ont contribué aux rivalités coloniales et à la diplomatie internationale.

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Texte intégral

1In 1908-1909, 3 maps were published under the title La Côte française des Somalis et contrées avoisinantes by the Service Géographique des Colonies, with a clear mention of the name of the author: Alexandre Meunier. These map sheets of Djibouti (1908), Harrar (1908) and Addis Ababa (1909) are at a scale of 1:500,000 (Figures 2, 4 and 6). Their geographical extent is shown here on the background of the map of Abyssinia published in 1908 by the War office of Great Britain (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Location of Meunier's maps assembled on a map of abyssinia (War Office 1908)

Figure 1 Location of Meunier's maps assembled on a map of abyssinia (War Office 1908)

Figure 2 Djibouti map (Meunier 1908, a)

Figure 2 Djibouti map (Meunier 1908, a)

Figure 3 Portion of Djibouti map (Meunier 1908, a)

Figure 3 Portion of Djibouti map (Meunier 1908, a)

Figure 4 Harrar map (Meunier 1908, b)

Figure 4 Harrar map (Meunier 1908, b)

Figure 5 Portion of Harrar map (Meunier 1908, b)

Figure 5 Portion of Harrar map (Meunier 1908, b)

Figure 6 Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)

Figure 6 Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)

Figure 7 Portion of Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)

Figure 7 Portion of Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)

The mapping project

  • 1 ANOM, Ministère des colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944) – Comité du Service Géographique des Colon (...)

2When the mapping project started is found in a report to the Minister from the Director of Political and Administrative Affairs, dated the 27th of February 1908:1

  • 2 In a letter dated 23rd of March 1904, the governor of the French coast of Somali, Léonce Lagarde, (...)

Par lettre en date du 23 mars 1904, M. le gouverneur de la Côte française des Somalis a fait connaître au département que le conseil d’administration avait approuvé le projet d’établissement d’une carte de la colonie, tel qu’il lui avait été soumis par la dépêche ministérielle du 18 décembre 1903.2

3At this time, two map sheets, Djibouti and Harar, were projected, including the first section of the railway between Djibouti and Dire Daoua. These maps do not belong to any general survey. They do not belong to any map series, not even to a map “category”: they include elements of topographic maps, infrastructure and communication maps, vegetation maps, settlement maps…and more. It is not possible to assign them to any known map standard. They also have an uneven format; the latest Addis Ababa map sheet is smaller than the Harrar and Djibouti maps (Figure 1). Some minor differences can emerge like titles differing from each other, and one can wonder why the map key on the first sheet (Djibouti) doesn't show any areal symbol for vegetation, when the two later map sheets do have them assigned to “prairies, culture” and “bois et forêts” (Figure 8).

Figure 8 Areal symbols on Harrar and Addis maps

Figure 8 Areal symbols on Harrar and Addis maps

Aims: Contents analysis by contextualizing: involving actors and the geopolitical situation

4Analyzing maps in this case can only be done properly by doing more than analyzing the information displayed. It has to include the historical circumstances of the making of the maps and the actors involved. This can be done by identifying and investigating the participants in the production process, by specifying the roles of other actors apart from the mapmaker himself, and by describing how institutions operationalized their map production. This will shed light over the contents of the maps: the information variables themselves. One will therefore associate the geopolitical context in the considered area with the actors involved as well as the information contents displayed on the maps. Analyzing maps ranges therefore from technical issues to geopolitical and ideological contents.

  • 3 In The History of Cartography, Vol. Six: Cartography in the Twentieth Century (Monmonier 2015), the (...)

5What was Alexandre Meunier’s place as a mapmaker in his time, despite the fact that he seems to be nearly invisible in the recent and contemporary history of cartography?3 Could the fact that Meunier’s maps do not belong to any defined category of maps explain the disdain for his works? Is there anything special about colonial maps and do they fall into a particular category?

  • 4 Didger 4, by Golden Software, USA
  • 5 The maps created here cover the total area made by assembling all 3 Meunier’s maps on univariate ma (...)

6Beyond using ‘traditional’ methods for map reading and analysis as done by geographers by first extracting and describing each theme or layer of information separately and their graphical design, GIS is an adequate tool. It was done by using a standard GIS4 to geo-reference and assemble the three original maps. Each digitized layer could be clearly visible when displayed separately and much easier to describe5.

7By analysing the discourse found on maps, primarily the discourse of power, Brian Harley (1989; 1990) led to a broadening in map analysis. Any map can be seen as the result of some explicit or hidden goal, programme or strategy, and particular uses. One can use a systematic deconstruction of all map elements: the title, the extent of the mapped area, the choice of projection, the choice of graphic symbols and the text in insets had to be included in the analysis as it was advocated by Harley. Applying this strategy to colonial maps has been done for some years. It is definitely clear that mapmaking in a colonial context was not ‘pure knowledge’ but one of the most important tools for supporting colonial enterprises. This view is exemplified in a volume edited by Singaravélou and his colleagues (Singaravélou, 2008). Both in that volume and in a later article the role of geographical knowledge is clearly characterized: ‘the production of geographical knowledge did play a key role in the military conquest and political dimension of the colonized territories’ (Blais et al., 2011, 146).

8This is not a new discovery. When looking back to the beginning of the 20th century, one will see that actors in the colonial enterprises were themselves quite clear in their minds about what they were doing, how mapping colonial territories would increase their geographical knowledge and how important that task was for them. This is evident from a quite explicite note about West Africa in Actes de la société de géographie:

  • 6 ‘These last years, the scientific missions travelling across our many possessions, the unrelenting (...)

Cartes de l’Afrique occidentale française - Les missions scientifiques qui depuis quelques années sillonnent nos diverses possessions, le zèle infatigable de nos administrateurs et commandants de cercles, l’activité incessante des officiers de notre armée coloniale, ont éclairé d’un jour tout nouveau les connaissances géographiques que nous possédions jusqu’ici sur nos colonies de la côte occidentale d’Afrique. Aussi a- t-il paru intéressant au ministère des colonies d’utiliser les documents les plus récents qu’il avait reçu sur ces régions et de faire dresser une carte d’ensemble destinée à ceux qui s’occupent des questions coloniales. MM Meunier et Barralier, dessinateurs au Service géographique du ministère des Colonies, ont été chargés d’exécuter ce travail qui vient d’être terminé. (La Géographie, 1904, 154)6

9In analysing the case of Italy, which had a similar cartographic service in its colonial ministry, Casti and Burini (2008, 1) point out that "by belonging to the particular cartographic institution the mapmaker contributes to supporting a specific political and ideological product". According to them, such cartographic services "coordinate and control the entire colonial cartographic production and to complete derivative maps for not only state offices but also to the general public " (Casti, Burini, 2008, 5), the ultimate goal being the legitimacy of the colonial project:

In colonial cartography, for instance, particular cartographic institutions attempted to answer the needs of those who under various auspices were responsible for working within the colonial project, formulating a cartographic production that, however articulated and varied, was wholly directed towards demonstrating the practicability and legitimacy of the colonial project (Casti, Burini, 2008, 3).

Institutional actors: The Colonial ministry, the Service Géographique of the Ministry and the Committee of the Service Géographique

10One of the tasks in this work is to demonstrate the role of particular institutions in charge of the cartographic production. In this case it will be to analyse the role of a particular service: this service was a mapping unit under the Colonial Ministry. The service was responsible for not only collecting all existing information for producing maps but also organizing missions for the collection of information from various countries. It was created January 31st, 1889. Its structures and its duties were later specified in a publication by Antony Georges (1901). In 1902 this relatively autonomous unit was relocated to the central administration of the Ministère des Colonies. At that time, most cartographic production in France and the French Empire was done by the French military as an extension of the Service Géographique de l’Armée or the Ministère de la Marine. The French authorities wanted an additional unit, centralizing cartographic data from the colonies in this new and relatively small structure.

  • 7 We will call it, from now on: “the Committee”
  • 8 ANOM (Archives Nationales de l’Outre-Mer), Aix en Provence. Ministère des Colonies, Missions (1791- (...)

11In 1908, when the Service Géographique started to publish the first of Meunier’s maps on the Côte des Somalis, a new committee was created in charge of colonial cartography: the Comité du Service Géographique du Ministère des Colonies7 (lit. the Committee of the Geographical Service of the Colonial Ministry). Documents in archives belonging to the Service Géographique of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made it possible to follow the work of the Committee in charge of supervising the publication of the maps.8

  • 9 Mr Milliès-Lacroix, a ‘radical socialist’, and colonial minister from the 25th of October 1906 to t (...)
  • 10 The list includes high ranking officers and high-level civil servants from the Ministry of Foreign (...)

12Due to the initiative of the Directeur des affaires politiques et administratives, the project for a new committee in charge of supervising the activities of the Service Géographique was proposed and in 1908, the Minister9 announced the constitution of the Committee together with a provisional list of its members, as well as its responsibilities and future tasks, as follows:10

  • 11 ANOM, (Archives Nationale d’Outre-Mer), Ministère des Colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944) Comité d (...)

Constitution d’un Comité du Service Géographique
Paris le 16 janvier 1908
Arrêté :
Le ministre des colonies

Ce comité est composé de la manière suivante:
-L’inspecteur général des travaux publics des colonies, Président
-Un officier supérieur du Génie ou un ancien Chef du Service des Travaux publics aux Colonies
-Un représentant du Service géographique de l’armée
-Un professeur de l’Université
-le sous-Directeur de l’Afrique chargé du Service Géographique au Ministère des Colonies
Le sous-Directeur de l’Asie, de l’Amérique et de l’Océanie au Ministère des Colonies
-Un rédacteur à l’administration centrale du Ministère des Colonies.11

13A few days later, on the 21st of January 1908 a letter was sent to the Ministry of Education asking for a member from the academic community to be nominated as a member of the Committee responsible for supervising the Service Géographique’s activities. Paul Vidal de la Blache, one of the founders of the French academic human geography, was accepted by the Minister on February 1st. It should be noted that Vidal was the only academic member of the Committee. A programme for the Committee was circulated on the 29th of February, announcing a first meeting on the 5th of March.

14All of the above-mentioned details show how quickly the Ministry had proceeded. It seems that the ministry was in a hurry to establish the Committee in order to solve problems existing in the Service Géographique. One of their first tasks was to accelerate and monitor the completion and the publication of the maps of the Côte française des Somalis. Alexandre Meunier, who was working on the maps of the Côte des Somalis was at once involved as their main partner in the discussions with the Committee. A letter was even sent to the Minister with a request for additional funds for the mapmaker Meunier, who had been working overtime.

15A main event happened; as the mapping project was nearing completion, it expanded to include regions of Ethiopia along the planned railway line up to Addis Ababa:

  • 12 ‘Thanks to these elements and the numerous materials emanating from other regions that were intelli (...)

Grace à ces éléments et aux nombreux matériaux concernant les autres régions qui ont été coordonnés avec intelligence et méthode par Mr. Meunier, agent cartographe, la nouvelle carte du Service Géographique des colonies constitue un document de premier ordre. Les services qu’elle est appelée à rendre sont d’autant plus précieux qu’elle est la première carte représentant d’une façon détaillée non seulement nos possessions de la côte des Somalis mais encore l’ensemble des territoires éthiopiens ou sont engagés les intérêts politiques et financiers de la France.12

16In this time, in 1908, the diplomatic situation had changed, the initial mapping project had to be extended, by including in the map the (not yet built) railway line from Dire Daoua to Addis Ababa, and this could only be done by adding a third map sheet.

An individual actor, the mapmaker: Alexandre Meunier

  • 13 Little biographical information is to be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale . However, one can rea (...)
  • 14 The Service was created on the 31st of January 1889. In 1902 the relatively autonomous unit was rel (...)
  • 15 ‘Le pavillon de la Guinée française nous offre une carte manuscrite de la Guinée française dressée (...)

17Meunier13 was employed in the Service Géographique et des Missions14 of the Ministère des Colonies, he was a highly active mapmaker and produced many maps, at least 40, of the French possessions in the world. In his lifetime, Meunier’s map production had been mentioned and praised in several articles and reports published in geographical journals (De Margerie, Raveneau, 1900, 309;15 Privat-Deschanel, 1908, 349-350; Rambert, 1922, 38-39; De Martonne, 1931), as well as in the specialized colonial press, such as La Dépêche Coloniale Illustrée (1911; 1913). In an article by Privat-Deschanel, Meunier’s map production is mentioned three times (Privat Deschanel, 1908, 347, 349, 350) and the last mention, about the map of Dahomey, is particularly positive:

  • 16 ‘The map by Mr A. Meunier is the first general map of Dahomey. Created in 1906, it has been constan (...)

La carte de Mr. A. Meunier est la première carte générale du Dahomey. Construite en 1906, elle a été constamment modifiée et tenue à jour jusqu’au mois de mai 1908. Elle est très complète et paraît très exacte… sans être définitive elle constitue un progrès réel et fait honneur à Mr. Meunier, déjà connu par plusieurs travaux importants.16

  • 17 ‘This prize is attributed to Mr Alexandre Meunier, geographer at the colonial ministry, for his wor (...)

18In 1925 he even received a prize from a research fund, the Fondation Trémond (Le Génie Civil, 1925, 567): ‘Ce prix est attribué à Mr. Alexandre Meunier, géographe au ministère des colonies, pour son œuvre cartographique sur l’Afrique Occidentale Française.17 The only critical evaluation to be found of Meunier’s maps is in a review of colonial maps written by Emmanuel de Martonne, on the Côte française des Somalis (De Martonne, 1931, 195):

  • 18 ‘The only existing document on the whole area is a map at the scale of 1 to 500,000 in three map sh (...)

L’unique document d’ensemble existant est la carte au 500000 en 3 feuilles publiée en 1908 par le Service Géographique du Ministère des Colonies et dont la dernière édition remonte à 1922, c’est la carte d’exploration tout à fait vague en dehors de quelques points précis.18

19Data on Meunier’s biography are scarce. The Bibliothèque Nationale only had information about his maps, as well some low-resolution scans19 of his maps. Meunier is seldom mentioned by scholars after the 1930s. One exception is Imbert-Vier (2008, 167; 2016), who mentions his map of the Côte française des Somalis. By contrast, a relatively recent article on the mapping of Ethiopia (Ferraresi et al., 2006) does not contain any mention of Meunier’s maps. In common with De Martonne (1931), Imbert-Vier (2008, 33) had some reservations about the quality of information concerning place names in particular, as well as about the borders depicted on Meunier’s map. Odile Goerg (Goerg, 2004) is the only author to have analysed the conditions, the process involved, and the contents of a map produced by Meunier, La carte de La Guinée française, published in 1902. It can be concluded, that if in his time, Meunier was a respected cartographer, he was almost totally forgotten after WW2.

A changing geopolitical context

20The geopolitical situation was changing rapidly at the beginning of the 20th century, leading to new alliances and treaties. In the case of the Red Sea area, Italian, English, French, and Egyptian powers had been involved. In London in 1906, French, Italian and English powers reached an agreement, a treaty on sharing territories of influence in East Africa. They had recognized, after the defeat of the Italians in Adoua, the strength of the Ethiopian kingdom and the impossibility of using force to expand in the region. Lennox-Gilmour establishes a clear relationship between the new treaty and the recently proclaimed “Entente Cordiale” in his writing about the case of a railway line in Ethiopia:

The Abyssinian question was not dealt with in the series of Anglo-French agreements of April 1904, which sealed the ‘Entente Cordiale’. But a disposition has been shown among the supporters of Mr. Delcassé’s policy to make British support for what has hitherto been French official policy in Abyssinia a test of the value of British friendship. (Lennox-Gilmour, 1906, 52)

21Several authors have dealt with these events, including Rosanna Van Gelder de Piñeda (1995) and Lukian Prijac (2003). The 1906 treaty led to a delimitation of the zones of influence between partners. Later on, the French diplomat Klobukowski, who had been sent to Addis Ababa, signed a treaty with Emperor Menelik in 1908, that is the same year of the publication of the first of Meunier’s map sheets (Djibouti). The Klobukowski treaty established the rules of trade between the Ethiopian kingdom and France. In that ‘pacified’ context the French colonial ministry felt a strong need to produce a concrete document describing the extent of it position in the Horn of Africa following the evolution of relationships between powerful nations at that time.

  • 20 ‘The French Government is not yet ready, in 1890, to support its presence in Abyssinia, despite the (...)

22From 1884, with the governor of the territory of the Côte française des Somalis, Léonce Lagarde, actions were taken to connect the territory to the neighbouring territory, under the rule of Ménélik, King of Choa, later emperor (Negus) of Ethiopia. Several colonial powers, including France, Italy, Great Britain, and even Egypt, Germany, and Russia, were competing with each other in the Red Sea area. However, the French Government was not ready to support an active policy in Abyssinia, as stated by Rosanna Van Gelder de Piñeda (1995, 97): "Le gouvernement français n’est pas encore prêt en 1890 à soutenir une présence en Abyssinie malgré les demandes incessantes de Ménélik et des commerçants."20

23Changes came later. Trade and relationships between the Côte française des Somalis (1896) and Abyssinia increased particularly when the first segment of the railway had almost reached Dire Daoua in 1903. The railway line was originally created to link Djibouti and Harar. However, it was never extended to Harar but terminated at Dire Daoua, due to various difficulties and financial issues leading to the bankruptcy of the original company responsible for its construction.

24The international context was evolving: increased international tensions, particularly colonial rivalries between France and Germany, led to new alliances. Rosanna Van Gelder de Piñeda states:

  • 21 ‘Between August 1905 and February 1906, the French and English governments were forced to agree upo (...)

Entre août 1905 et février 1906, les gouvernements anglais et français, devant l’influence croissante des allemands à la cour et dans les compagnies coloniales africaines dont les chemins de fer sont la clef de voûte du développement, sont obligés de s’accorder sur un simple partage de l’Ethiopie en sphères d’influence (1995, 386).21

25By 1905, with the creation of the Entente Cordiale, the alliance between France and Great Britain introduced a new agenda for the territory. France, Great Britain and Italy negotiated with each other to end their rivalries and the negotiations were concluded with a tripartite agreement, signed in London in 1906, acknowledging French possessions on the Côte des Somalis. Two relatively recent and useful articles (Markus, 1964) and (Keefer, 1981) analysed the 1906 agreement. Following this treaty, a new solution had to be found for the bankrupted railway company in order to resume the construction of the railway line towards Addis Ababa. Klobukowski spent several months (between 1907 and 1908) in Addis Ababa in order to negotiate with Emperor Menélik on solutions for the shaping of a new railway company in which the French would have a key role. This Franco-Ethiopian treaty of 1908 was analysed by Lukian Prijac (Prijac, 2003). The inclusion of the third map sheet, the Addis Abeba map, happened as a direct consequence of the negotiations and agreement between the French diplomat Klobukowski and Negus Menelik concerning the new railway company in charge of the completion of the railway line to Addis Ababa.

Frame, titles and system of reference- Questioning the concept of ‘régions avoisinantes’

Figure 9 Inset on the Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)

Figure 9 Inset on the Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)

26The first of Meunier’s three maps is titled Djibouti, with the following subtitle Carte de la Côte française des Somalis (Figure 2). The geographical area covered by the map is as described in the title.

27On the second map, the Harrar sheet, the subtitle is slightly modified: Carte de la Côte française des Somalis et régions avoisinantes. Accordingly, the mapped area covers parts of neighbouring countries, but not any part of the French territory itself.

28For the third map sheet, on Addis Ababa, the title is even more questionable (Figure 9), it has the same subtitle: Carte de la Côte française des Somalis et régions avoisinantes, yet the mapped area belonged exclusively to the Kingdom of Ethiopia and no part belonged to the Côte française des Somalis or any neighbouring country.

29Even more disturbing is that neither Ethiopia or Abyssinia is mentioned in the map titles or elsewhere on the maps. One can assume that titles were chosen consciously. In fact, several members of the Committee had already expressed their concern about what they called a ‘detail’:

  • 22 ‘Mrs Bouteville, Renard, Vidal de la Blache and Bourgeois make a few comments. They bring attention (...)

MM. Bouteville, Renard, Vidal de la Blache et Bourgeois présentent quelques observations de détail. Ils attirent notamment l’attention sur les inconvénients diplomatiques qui pourraient résulter du fait d’avoir englobé l’Ethiopie toute entière dans une carte qui porte le titre de Côte française des Somalis, titre qui est seul reproduit même sur les cartes ne comprenant aucune parcelle du territoire Français.22

30However, this observation came all too late, as it was done at a meeting on the May 3rd, 1910, when the maps had already been published.

31The main issue is the use of the concept of ‘regions avoisinantes’ (neighbouring regions). It seems that the term was in common use at that time. For example, the Italians showed the same tendency on maps of Eritrea by including regioni adiacenti (Istituto geografico militare, 1901) (Figure 10). The qualification for the use of the term on those Italian maps started with a somehow neutral regione adjacenti and later changed to zona d’influenza and even to possessions (carta dei possedimenti, Figure 11). Another example of abusive stretching of the concept of “dépendance” is the Atlas des colonies françaises by Paul Pelet (Pelet, 1902), where one can find the Carte de la Côte des Somali et dépendances, including almost all of Ethiopia and even part of the Sudanese territory (Figure 12).

Figure 10 Possedimenti e zona d'influenza, Italian map (anonymous 1896)

Figure 10 Possedimenti e zona d'influenza, Italian map (anonymous 1896)

Figure 11 Regioni adjacenti on Eritrea map (istituto Geografico Militare 1896)

Figure 11 Regioni adjacenti on Eritrea map (istituto Geografico Militare 1896)

Figure 12 Stretching the concept of dependance – French map (Pelet 1902)

Figure 12 Stretching the concept of dependance – French map (Pelet 1902)

32After the Battle of Adoua (Adwa) in 1896, the colonial powers were forced to reduce their ambitions in Ethiopia. However, European countries still had some difficulties in accepting the fact that Ethiopia was independent and not under their influence. Despite reiterated expressions of official recognition of Ethiopia’s independence, it seems that they still had a (not really) hidden agenda, a tendency to consider Ethiopia as an extension of their presence in Djibouti (in the case of France), Eritrea (in the case of Italy) and Somaliland (in the case of Great Britain). An expression of the competition between colonial powers is still to be found on Meunier’s Harrar map sheet, where ‘English Somaliland’ is merely named ‘Somaliland’, without any mention of it being a British possession.

33The discussion of the use of the term regions avoisinantes, a neutral concept, leads to the relatively new concept of ‘hinterland’, a more political concept involving some power relation even if is quite close to regions avoisinantes and fits quite well with the situation depicted on the maps: "in colonial usage, the term (hinterland) was applied to the surrounding areas of former European colonies in Africa, which, although not part of a colony itself, were influenced by the colony."23 The point made here is that since the 1880s, and particularly after the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, colonial powers either agreed or disagreed on defining parts of Africa as their particular zones of influence: the terms ‘sphere of influence’ and ‘hinterland’ were used for territories where it was not possible to claim an effective occupation. In practice, the ‘hinterland theory’ gave any colonial power with coastal territory the right to claim political influence over an indefinite amount of inland territory.24 Another term expressed this differently. A sentence in an article from 1906 about a mission led by Lieutenant Collat reveals in simpler words the fundamental mental attitudes of contemporary colonial entrepreneurs about the strategies being used to gain access to new markets in Africa or elsewhere:

  • 25 ‘These regions of East Africa between Dire Daoua the station at the end of the railway line between (...)

Ces régions, comprises dans l’Est Africain entre Dire-Daoua, le terminus actuel du chemin de fer de Djibouti à Addis-Abeba, et la capitale de l’Abyssinie, forment une sorte de vestibule de l’empire de Ménélik dont notre possession de Djibouti est la porte. (Anonymous, 1906, 740)25

34The quotation explicitly defines the Côte Française des Somalis under French control as playing the role of a gateway to access the wider Abyssinian kingdom.

The system of reference on Meunier’s maps

  • 26 The Paris meridian is 2o20'13'' East (i.e., east of Greenwich).

35The margins of Meunier’s maps do not show any reference to the geodetic system that was used. Moreover, there is no information about the ellipsoid, the projection, or the datum. There is a grid of coordinates based on the Paris meridian26 yet not explicitly. It may be seen as an expression of French nationalism. Some 25 years earlier, at the Congress of Geography in Washington in 1884, the Greenwich meridian was adopted for all cartographic work. During much of the 20th century they were still using the French system based on the Paris meridian, together with additional Greenwich references (as is still the case today for topographic maps).

Map features: the map keys

36Only linear features and point features, such as some places, locations, and settlements are represented in the keys (Figure 13, Figure 14) on all 3 map sheets. Several features are infrastructures and administrative elements. The information is what was observed, measured, and reported by European travelers over 70 years and reflects what interested them.

Figure 13 Key part 1

Figure 13 Key part 1

Figure 14 Key part 2

Figure 14 Key part 2

37Earlier in this text the map key for Harrar and Addis Ababa map sheets was shown (on Figure 8) with areal symbols for vegetation. None of these are found on the map key for Djibouti. This difference is the consequence of the requirements from the Committee coming too late, when the first map (Djibouti) was already published.

Sources

38The work invested in the three maps represents a huge undertaking in terms of acquiring, compiling, and assembling all sources. Meunier’s three maps were based on information compiled from a range of earlier maps made by French, English or Italian mapping agencies. Other maps, depicting the expeditions of various explorers and travellers over a period of some 70 years, were also used as sources of information. Meunier’s maps were published in colour (four colours) as lithographic prints. The frame around each main map included inset maps of the cities of Harrar, Djibouti and Addis Ababa. None of the city maps were original works but had been obtained from various other sources, namely from Paulitschke and Mondon-Vidaillet in the case of Harrar, and from the public works administration and the French marine in the case of Djibouti. However, the source of the city map of Addis Ababa is not mentioned.

39The Service Géographique itself had its own map library where a relatively small collection of maps and itineraries for the Côte française des Somalis and for Abyssinia was kept.27 It is likely that another source would have been used, namely one of the maps from Richard de Regnauld de Lannoy de Bissy,28 who explicitly wanted to map all itineraries followed by foreign travellers in the whole of Africa. The revised edition of the Gondar map sheet no. 29, by Regnauld de Lannoy de Bissy, shows the routes of about 40 travelers up to 1897 (Figure 15). More than 10 years later, c. 20 of the itineraries were included on one of Meunier’s maps, together with new ones. Other itineraries, about 17 of them were probably recorded from maps in the map library of the Service Géographique. Apparently, Meunier did not systematically record all of his sources, unlike Regnault de Lannoy de Bissy, who reported, in a three-page document,29 the sources he had used for the Gondar map sheet, recording no less than 58 maps and documents, as well as 28 published books.

Figure 15 Traveler' itineraries on Regnault de Lannoy - Map of Gondar, 1897

Figure 15 Traveler' itineraries on Regnault de Lannoy - Map of Gondar, 1897

40Meunier did not leave such a list of details; the short list included in the inset’s title simply mentions ‘les principaux explorateurs’ (the main explorers), together with British, Italian and French map sources (Figure 9).

  • 30 ‘Mr Meunier the maker of the map is introduced upon a request from Mr Vidal De la Blache. Mr Meunie (...)

41The Comité was involved in the redaction of the map. It is recorded that in a meeting on the 14th of March 1908 "M. Meunier auteur de la carte est introduit sur la demande de Mr. Vidal de la Blache. Mr. Meunier indique les différentes sources auxquelles il a puisé les éléments de son travail."30 Mr Bouteville’s first request was for an additional list of the maps used. Vidal de la Blache meant that the list had to be included on the map itself, not as a separate brochure.

Map features: the thematic contents and design on Meunier’s maps

42The different layers of information on Meunier’s maps consist of:

43Topography, hydrography: water courses, water points and sources, settlements and towns, communications: routes and telegraph lines, the railway line, ethnic groups, region names, administrative units, wildlife, natural vegetation, agriculture and a few other information on mosques, ruins, particular points of interest etc...

44We must keep in mind that the information shown on Meunier’s maps is not the product of any comprehensive survey. That is to say, the topography is incomplete, as is the case for wildlife data, some vegetation, and agricultural land.

Using text or graphic symbols

45There is also an issue related to the use of text information instead of graphic symbols. It is true that the main weakness of Meunier’s maps is that all too much information is only expressed in text form. It was discussed in a Committee meeting. At the meeting on the 8th of June 1908, Vidal de la Blache made the following request:

  • 31 ‘Types of vegetation and wild animals drawn in the map and contributing to its lack of clarity have (...)

Que soient mentionnées dans la légende les formations végétales et les animaux encombrant la carte et nuisant à sa clarté’, and to ‘réduire le nombre des indications écrites pour les remplacer par des signes dont l’explication est donnée dans la légende.31

46However, Meunier did not, or could not follow the ‘instructions’ given to him by the Committee. This is also why we found differences between map keys about vegetation.

Figure 16 The dominance of text information

Figure 16 The dominance of text information

47For example: Along the coast and West for Tadjoura (Figure 16) information variables for vegetation, agriculture and wildlife are presented only in text form, in black, with the same fonts and same text size. Renards (foxes), gazelles, sangliers (wild boar), pintades (guinea fowl) and perdrix (partridge) are mixed up with cultures, terrains fertiles (cultivated land), vaches (cows), moutons (sheep) and mules and with aloes, euphorbes, palmiers or gommiers (gum trees). Consequently, no visual perception of vegetation or wildlife is possible. Using text form allows for many information variables to be included in one map, but at the same time hinders any efficient visual perception.

An uneven density of information

48Parts of the three maps are densely filled with information. This is the case along the railway line in the region of Harrar and around Addis Ababa (Figure 5, Figure 7, Figure 17).

Figure 17 Density of information along the railway line (Meunier 1909)

Figure 17 Density of information along the railway line (Meunier 1909)

49A few areas on the maps remain ‘empty’, such as those in the lower Awash, west of Assab. They are desert areas that had not yet been explored (Figure 18); they were not explored before Wilfred Thesiger (Thesiger, 1998) did it in the 1930s.

Figure 18 Unexplored areas Djibouti map - (Meunier 1908)

Figure 18 Unexplored areas Djibouti map - (Meunier 1908)

Routes and itineraries

  • 32 The trace of that part of the railway line was established by the mission that had recently been le (...)
  • 33 ‘We wish to have on the routes the names of the explorers and the date of their travels. ANOM, Mini (...)

50Many routes are plotted on Meunier’s three maps, both traditional routes used by indigenous travelers and caravans and those based on the travels made by more than 40 explorers. It is not easy to separate local caravan routes from the European travelers’ itineraries. There is no point in doing so, since the travelers all used existing local caravan routes. It must be clear that none of the routes were ‘discovered’ or ‘opened’ by European explorers. Together, the mapped routes form a dense pattern extending from the various points on the coast towards the interior of the country (Ethiopia), to Ankober and Addis Ababa, and in the case of the northern areas of Ethiopia (outside the map frame) to Wollo and Dessie (Figure 19). The railway line is shown on all 3 maps, both part of the existing line between Djibouti and Dire-Daoua, and the projected line of the railway that was built after the map was produced.32 This shows the central position held by the railway as a kind of backbone in the territories that were considered the French hinterland of Djibouti. One can also see that there are several alternatives between one point and another along the routes. The routes were changed according to the season and the local difficulties encountered. Also shown on the maps are itineraries from Obock and Assab towards northern Ethiopia through the Aoussa in the Afar region. Numerous routes from Zeila and Berbera, through Hargeisa and Djidjiga, are shown. The traditional economic role and central position of Harrar for trading in the whole region is quite evident and routes from Zeila and Djibouti extend directly to Ankober and Addis Ababa. The itineraries of European travelers are shown with the name of the traveler and the actual year of their travels (Table 1, Figure 19). This was done following a request made by the Committee on the 14th of March 1908, when Vidal de la Blache and Mr Bouteville informed Meunier that "Il serait désirable d’indiquer sur les itinéraires les noms des explorateurs et les dates des voyages."33

Figure 19 all routes used by travelers and caravans

Figure 19 all routes used by travelers and caravans

Table 1 European travelers whose itineraries are shown on Meunier’s maps

Traveler

Dato start

Date end

Nationality

Rochet d'Héricourt

1839

1842

F

Béke

1840

1842

GB

Henri Lebrun

1840

F

Harris

1841

1843

GB

Burton

1854

GB

Cecchi

1876

1881

It

Martini S.

1878

It

Cecchi and Chiari

1878

1879

It

Giuletti

1879

1881

It

Jules Métra

1879

1880

F

Frigiero

1880

It

Cecchi and Martini

1881

It

Aubry

1883

1885

F

Antonelli

1883

1884

It

Sacconi

1883

It

Paulitschke

1885

D

Borelli

1885

1888

It

Ragazzi

1886

1887

It

Traversi

1886

It

Philippe

1890

F

Bottego

1892

1893

It

Menges

1894

D

Giannini

1895

It

Marchand

1896

1899

F

Comboul

1896

1900

F

de Poncins

1897

1898

F

Wickenbourg

1897

1898

D

Philippe

1897

F

Bottego

1897

It

de Bonchamps

1897

1898

F

Swayne

1897

GB

Lacroix J.

1898

F

Wickenbourg

1901

1902

D

Du Bourg de Bozas

1901

1902

F

Erlanger

1901

D

Duchesne-Fournet

1902

F

Erlanger and Neumann

1902

D

Mathieu

1903

F

Ozil

1908

F

Hunter and Fullerton

1882

GB

Traversi and Ragazzi

1886

It

Antinori and Chiarini

1876

It

51In this table, the foreigners’ travel activities in Ethiopia are mostly by the French (15) and the Italians (16) followed by the German (6) and the English (5). Among all published travel maps, two of them are included here. One for the mission led by Duchesne-Fournet (Figure 20) and the other by Bonchamps (Figure 21). They overlap, both Duchesne-Fournet and Bonchamps used the ‘desert road’ between Djibouti to Addis Ababa.

Figure 20 Route of the Duchesne-Fournet mission (Duchesne-Fournet 1909)

Figure 20 Route of the Duchesne-Fournet mission (Duchesne-Fournet 1909)

Figure 21 Route of the Bonchamps mission (Michel Charles 1900)

Figure 21 Route of the Bonchamps mission (Michel Charles 1900)

Topography and landforms

52At first sight, it seems that the topography is depicted with isolines on Meunier’s maps. In fact, these lines are ‘pseudo-isolines’, also known as ‘form lines’. Overall, the representation of topography in Meunier’s maps is quite simple yet enhanced with the use of a simple hill-shading effect, with thicker lines, as can be seen in Figure 22.

Figure 22 Formlines and shading to depict topography

Figure 22 Formlines and shading to depict topography

53Coordinates for X and Y seem to have been quite well established. For the third dimension, height points, it seems that most of them were not recorded on hilltops and mountains but most often along the trails. We can also see that the description of topography to the west of the south–north escarpment of Shoa and Wollo is more or less missing, giving the impression that the region, the highlands to the west of the escarpment was less relevant.

Hydrography and water

54Besides quite detailed mapping of river courses, the presence of water (sources, wells or running water) is duly indicated on Meunier’s maps, as well as the status of rivers, perennial and seasonal. This is done with an extremely high level of detail (Figure 23). One can find that associated with each spot there are details about the depth of wells, the quality of water, even its salinity, and particularly its presence all year round or at specific times of the year. Obviously, access to water was critical for all earlier travelers and therefore it was important to report such extremely valuable information. The extreme variety of qualities relating to water sources may also explain why they are not included in a key, together with specific symbols, but instead appear in full text on the map.

Box 1 List of details associated with different sources of water

List of details associated with various sources of water

Water springs and wells
: Bonne eau, eau saumâtre en tous temps, eau à 2 m. stagnante, source d’eau chaude, eau à 1 m. du sol en tous temps, eau potable toute l’année, puits eau saumâtre, nombreux puits abondants, eau chaude sulfureuse, puits habituellement à sec, bonne eau fraîche, source d’eau chaude sodique, eau en été,. (Good water, salt water all year round, water at 2 m, stagnating, hot water source, water at 1 m depth at any time, drinking water all year round, well with salted water, many wells, warm sulphur water, wells usually dry, good fresh water, sodic warm water source, water in summer ...)

Rivers and lakes: Beaucoup d’eau, profondeur et largeur, eau courante, à sec en avril. Bonne eau courante, torrent en été, rarement d’eau. Lacs: existant pendant la saison des pluies
(Much water, depth, breadth, running water, riverbed dry in April, good running water, summer torrent, seldom water. Lakes: only during the rainy season)

Figure 23 Extremely detailed information on water (Meunier 1908)

Figure 23 Extremely detailed information on water (Meunier 1908)

Natural vegetation, rangeland and agriculture

55Forests, rangelands and pastures are sometimes shown on Meunier’s maps expressed by area symbols (Figure 24). Most often, natural vegetation is expressed in text form. When expressed with graphic symbols they appear to be located along main itineraries (Figure 25).

Figure 24 Vegetated areas (Meunier 1908, b)

Figure 24 Vegetated areas (Meunier 1908, b)

Figure 25 Mentions of natural vegetation

Figure 25 Mentions of natural vegetation
  • 34 ANOM Ministère des colonies, Missions (1791–1933, 1944), Comité du Service Géographique des Colonie (...)

56On Meunier’s maps, cultivated land is usually indicated by text, area symbols are used only when the density of information allows for it. Densely populated areas are also areas with cultivated land and are already overcrowded with information of other features. In some places there are qualifiers that could only have been of interest to investors, such as a single occurrence of a ‘Plaine propre à la culture du coton’. Meunier complied with some of the requests from the Committee but not always. We mentioned earlier how Vidal de la Blache raised the question of how to display vegetation, in the procès-verbal of the Committee meeting of the 8th of June 1909.34 However, the map sheet of Djibouti was probably already in print or published (1908) when Vidal de la Blache’s request was expressed (Figure 16).

Wildlife

57One can find many mentions of wildlife described in text form. By regrouping mentions of wildlife and digitizing them with point symbols under three categories (big game, herbivores and others), it produces a map showing a pattern for wildlife that quite closely relates to the travelers’ itineraries (Figure 26). This is definitely not a general map of wildlife in the area; it is a map of wildlife observed along the travelers’ itineraries. Information on wildlife was probably recorded for the benefit of ‘noble and rich sportsmen’ as they called themselves. By participating in hunts in their search for trophies, hunters in Ethiopia, both the local nobility and the European travelers, did much to cause the quasi-extinction of the wild fauna. Another reason given to justify hunting was to protect the inhabitants from attacks by wild animals.

Figure 26 Mentions of wildlife

Figure 26 Mentions of wildlife

Ethnical groups

58On Meunier’s original maps, the lettering of the tribe names makes it difficult to visually separate them from other types of information about physical features, wildlife or vegetation. Creating a map where the text given to particular ethnical groups is shown with different colours assigned to main groups reveals the well-known geographical pattern separating Afar from Issas and from Oromo peoples. The names of the main clans and sub-clans among the Afar and Somalis are written across Meunier’s maps, using the same hierarchy and orientation as in the original maps, with only brief mentions of the Oromo (Gallas) in the southern part of the mapped area (Figure 27). Afar tribes occupied an area running diagonally from Awash to Assab and delimited by the territory occupied by Somali tribes in the south-east part of the region. The Oromo-Karayou, are located West of Awash River close to Afar people. The denominations used for tribes and clans follow the accepted definitions used at the beginning of the 20th century.

Figure 26 Ethnicity

Figure 26 Ethnicity

The original and practical function of a colonial map

59The first decision about the production of the first map was initiated in 1903 by the founder of Djibouti and former governor (1887-1899) of the whole territory of the Côte française des Somalis: Léonce Lagarde. At that time, there were no French maps of the territory. Priority was given to information collected on communications, infrastructural elements, places of power, and access to water that primarily served all the needs of European agents, whether they were travelers already in Ethiopia or planning to go there for commercial, administrative or military purposes, as well as ‘sportsmen’ who were most interested in hunting. The maps were primarily intended to serve as practical tools for merchants, travelers and others, particularly French colonial entrepreneurs. Obviously, these maps were made exclusively for the needs of Europeans and by Europeans in this specific period in colonial times, between the time of exploration and/or discovery and the time of administration of acquired territories.

60Meunier’s maps are remarkable in many ways. They represent good craftsmanship, given the level of technology at the time. They are remarkable when considering the amount of work that had to be done, by collecting, compiling, and combining very many diverse sources of information. This may explain why it took 4 years from the decision to produce the maps, to the first drafts discussed in 1908.

61The amount of information variables included in the map is impressive, however it has obvious limitations, since it is based on observations made or collected by earlier European travelers and various military personnel. One also has to take into account that the scale of the maps (1:500000) does not allow for a high level of detail. In addition, the systematic use of text information limits or even excludes the perception of existing geographical patterns. The display of areal information is somehow erratic, sometimes done by areal symbols, but more often as text information with its inherent limitations for perception.

A broader geopolitical function

62Beyond the visible contents of the maps, are included in this analysis the conditions of the production of the maps, as well as the role of the institutional actors involved in their making. Several actors played a role, both individuals and institutions. They represent contextual aspects that are not directly and clearly visible on the maps.

63The first project for a map of The Côte des Somalis map was intended to create the very first map needed in this new territory. This map (the Djibouti map) was a welcomed complement to the brochure titled La Côte française des Somalis, which had been published in 1905 (Anonymous 1905). The second map, the Harrar map, followed the new railway ending in Dire Daoua already defining a zone of influence. Given a new geopolitical situation, it became important for the French colonial ministry to produce a proper map of the territory in the surrounding territories along the planned extension of the railway line as far as Addis Ababa. The Ministry therefore proposed a third map sheet covering areas where the French political and financial interests were delimited. In that way, the French had extended the French hinterland as far as to the capital of Ethiopia. By the end of 1908 and beginning of 1909, the three map sheets had been published. One may observe that the Ethiopian Government was not associated with the mapping project in any way.

64Meunier’s maps have much wider functions than their intended and practical use, they are geopolitical maps. It was adjusted to fit to the turn of events in the relationships between colonial powers, Great Britain, France and Italy, which were concretized with the Entente Cordiale. In 1906, a deal followed between powers involved in the region of the Horn of Africa about their respective possessions and zones of influence.

65At the same time, a solution had to be found for a new railway company and the construction of the railway line. The railway line, the trace of which had recently been established by Ozil’s mission, was the backbone structuring the regional space. The deal on the new railway was reached in the negotiations between Antony Klobukowski and Ménélik, the Emperor (Negus) of Ethiopia in 1908. Thus, it is easy to understand why the mapping project was suddenly given a high priority by the French Government. The maps are colonial in many ways, not least due to their thematic contents. They evolved to become a claim, a strong message, for France’s hinterland, a zone of influence or its chasse gardée at a given time and state of international relationships. This hinterland claim is quite wide, including even the capital of Ethiopia, the heart of the country.

Conclusion

66To our knowledge, the Ethiopian/Abyssinian Government was never involved in nor even consulted by the French about the mapping of its own country. The fact that any mention of Ethiopia or Abyssinia is missing from the maps is disturbing. It looks like a clear indication of a lack of consideration for the sovereignty of Ethiopia. This was so serious that the members of the Committee themselves, despite their good conscience regarding colonial matters, felt obliged to say something about it, only it was too late as the maps had already been printed. The French colonial power, who years earlier had accepted the sovereignty of the country, more or less consciously still had some reluctance to admit Ethiopia’s independence. The French kept some hope of annexing parts of the country, as was the case with Great Britain and Italy before the Italian defeat at Adoua.

67These maps represent a clear diplomatic signal to their partners in a new alliance the “Entente cordiale” alliance. It is a signal created to oppose the expansion of another European power, Germany, eager to position itself as a colonial power. In 1922-23 a new edition of Meunier’s maps was printed. It meant that the first one was sold out. Later, In the 1930s, with a new geo-political situation, the original status quo being disrupted with the Italian claims and later invasion of Ethiopia, renewed mapping activity by Italian and French mapping agencies rendered Meunier’s maps out of date.

Haut de page

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Notes

1 ANOM, Ministère des colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944) – Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies (1908-1913) MIS 32, Travaux supplémentaires exécutés pour la carte de la Côte française des Somalis, Rapport au Ministre, 27 février 1908

2 In a letter dated 23rd of March 1904, the governor of the French coast of Somali, Léonce Lagarde, told the Department that their Board of Administration had approved the project for establishing a map of the colony, as they had been asked to do in a ministerial letter dated 18th of November 1903.’ Léonce Lagarde was the founder of Djibouti and the former governor of the French territory from 1887 to 1899.

3 In The History of Cartography, Vol. Six: Cartography in the Twentieth Century (Monmonier 2015), the article (Collier, 2015) on Topographic maps in Africa by the French does not tell anything about Meunier’s maps at all and that Meunier is not listed in the volume register (personal communication, Prof. Michael Jones, 2021).

4 Didger 4, by Golden Software, USA

5 The maps created here cover the total area made by assembling all 3 Meunier’s maps on univariate maps (Figure 19, Figure 25,Figure 26,Figure 27) using graphic symbols instead of text.

6 ‘These last years, the scientific missions travelling across our many possessions, the unrelenting activity of our administrators and area commanders, and the activity of the officers of our colonial forces have thrown light on the geographical knowledge we had until now on our colonies on the West coast of Africa. Therefore, it seemed interesting for the colonial minister to use the most recent documentation he acquired on these regions in order to draw maps for the use of people working with colonial issues. Mr Meunier and Barralier mapmakers at the Service Géographique du Ministère des Colonies were given this recently performed task.’

7 We will call it, from now on: “the Committee”

8 ANOM (Archives Nationales de l’Outre-Mer), Aix en Provence. Ministère des Colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944), Service Géographique et des Missions, Commissions et comités (1892-1915), Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies (1908-1913) MIS 32.

9 Mr Milliès-Lacroix, a ‘radical socialist’, and colonial minister from the 25th of October 1906 to the 24th of July 1908 in the government headed by Georges Clemenceau.

10 The list includes high ranking officers and high-level civil servants from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with one well-known scholar from the University.

11 ANOM, (Archives Nationale d’Outre-Mer), Ministère des Colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944) Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies, MIS 32, Constitution d’un Comité du Service Géographique, Paris le 16 janvier 1908.

12 ‘Thanks to these elements and the numerous materials emanating from other regions that were intelligently and methodically coordinated by Mr Meunier, the cartographer, the new map from the Service Géographique des Colonies represents a document of remarkably high value. It will render valuable services, since it is the first map to represent in a detailed manner not only our possessions on the Somali coast but also all the Ethiopian territories where the French political and financial interests are engaged.’

13 Little biographical information is to be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale . However, one can read about his administrative career in the colonial archives (ANOM, Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer). Meunier appeared to be a typical office mapmaker, appreciated for the quality of his work. He climbed all the steps to become a ‘first class cartographer’. He was called a dessinateur (draughtsman) at the start of his career, later mentioned as cartographe and finally as géographe. He resigned in 1934 and died in 1942.

14 The Service was created on the 31st of January 1889. In 1902 the relatively autonomous unit was relocated to the central administration of the Ministère des Colonies. It was not under the administration of the Ministère de la Guerre or that of the Ministère de la Marine, in charge of most cartographic production in France. Other colonial mapping institutions operating in Indochina and Morocco, and on map production in Madagascar, Indochina, and French West Africa, as well as in Algeria, were all run by the French military as extensions of the Service Géographique de l’Armée.

15 ‘Le pavillon de la Guinée française nous offre une carte manuscrite de la Guinée française dressée par Mr. A. Meunier, à 1 : 300000’ (‘The house of French Guinea presents a map manuscript of French Guinea drawn by Mr A. Meunier’).

16 ‘The map by Mr A. Meunier is the first general map of Dahomey. Created in 1906, it has been constantly modified and updated until May 1908. It is very complete and seems to be very precise. Without being final, it is a real progress and honours Mr Meunier, who is already well known for several important works.’

17 ‘This prize is attributed to Mr Alexandre Meunier, geographer at the colonial ministry, for his works on French West Africa.’

18 ‘The only existing document on the whole area is a map at the scale of 1 to 500,000 in three map sheets published in 1908 by the Service Géographique du Ministère des Colonies. Its last edition is dated 1922. It is a quite vague exploration map, except for a few precise points.’

19 http://data.bnf.fr/15871701/alexandre_meunier/#allitems

20 ‘The French Government is not yet ready, in 1890, to support its presence in Abyssinia, despite the reiterated demands from Ménélik and traders.’

21 ‘Between August 1905 and February 1906, the French and English governments were forced to agree upon a simple sharing of Ethiopia into zones of influence, given the increasing influence of the Germans at the King’s court and in the colonial companies in Africa, whose railway lines were the key pillar for development.’

22 ‘Mrs Bouteville, Renard, Vidal de la Blache and Bourgeois make a few comments. They bring attention to the diplomatic inconveniences that could occur because of the fact that most of Ethiopia has been included on a map titled de Côte française des Somalis [The French Coast of Somali], a title that is also reproduced on the map sheet that does not cover any part of the French territory.’

ANOM, Ministère des Colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944) – Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies (1908-1913) Procès-verbaux des séances, MIS 32.

23 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinterland

24 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_conference

25 ‘These regions of East Africa between Dire Daoua the station at the end of the railway line between Djibouti and Addis Ababa, and the Abyssinian capital, form a kind of hallway to Menelik’s empire, whose door is our possession in Djibouti.

26 The Paris meridian is 2o20'13'' East (i.e., east of Greenwich).

27 ANOM Ministère des colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944), Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies (1908-1913) MIS 116, Autres activités du Service, Inventaire des cartes.

28 Victor Amédée Richard Regnault de Lannoy de Bissy. Map of Africa in 63 map sheets produced between 1880 and 1888, by the Ministère de la guerre. The Gondar map sheet no. 29 covered Ethiopia, and a new revised and coloured edition was published in 1897.

29 https://bibliotheque.numerique.chambery.fr/collection/itemm/25741-brouillon-de-la-notice-de-la-feuille-29-gondar

30 ‘Mr Meunier the maker of the map is introduced upon a request from Mr Vidal De la Blache. Mr Meunier informs [the Committee] about in which diverse sources of information he found the elements of his work.’
ANOM, Ministère des colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944) – Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies (1908-1913) MIS 32, Procès-verbaux des séances, 2ème séance- Séance du 14 mars 1908.

31 ‘Types of vegetation and wild animals drawn in the map and contributing to its lack of clarity have to be included in the map key [and to] reduce the amount of text mentions in the map to be replaced by graphic symbols whose meaning is given in the key.’

ANOM Ministère des Colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944) Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies (1908-1913), MIS 32, Procès-verbaux des séances.

32 The trace of that part of the railway line was established by the mission that had recently been led by Ozil in 1907.

33 ‘We wish to have on the routes the names of the explorers and the date of their travels. ANOM, Ministère des Colonies, Missions (1791-1933, 1944, Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies (1908-1913), Procès-verbaux des séances, MIS 32.

34 ANOM Ministère des colonies, Missions (1791–1933, 1944), Comité du Service Géographique des Colonies (1908–1913), Procès-verbaux des séances, MIS 32

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1 Location of Meunier's maps assembled on a map of abyssinia (War Office 1908)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Titre Figure 2 Djibouti map (Meunier 1908, a)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 804k
Titre Figure 3 Portion of Djibouti map (Meunier 1908, a)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 692k
Titre Figure 4 Harrar map (Meunier 1908, b)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 708k
Titre Figure 5 Portion of Harrar map (Meunier 1908, b)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 216k
Titre Figure 6 Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 268k
Titre Figure 7 Portion of Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 1,9M
Titre Figure 8 Areal symbols on Harrar and Addis maps
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Titre Figure 9 Inset on the Addis Ababa map (Meunier 1909)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Figure 10 Possedimenti e zona d'influenza, Italian map (anonymous 1896)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Figure 11 Regioni adjacenti on Eritrea map (istituto Geografico Militare 1896)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Figure 12 Stretching the concept of dependance – French map (Pelet 1902)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Titre Figure 13 Key part 1
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure 14 Key part 2
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Figure 15 Traveler' itineraries on Regnault de Lannoy - Map of Gondar, 1897
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 84k
Titre Figure 16 The dominance of text information
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Titre Figure 17 Density of information along the railway line (Meunier 1909)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Titre Figure 18 Unexplored areas Djibouti map - (Meunier 1908)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Figure 19 all routes used by travelers and caravans
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Titre Figure 20 Route of the Duchesne-Fournet mission (Duchesne-Fournet 1909)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-20.png
Fichier image/png, 324k
Titre Figure 21 Route of the Bonchamps mission (Michel Charles 1900)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 400k
Titre Figure 22 Formlines and shading to depict topography
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Titre Figure 23 Extremely detailed information on water (Meunier 1908)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Figure 24 Vegetated areas (Meunier 1908, b)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Titre Figure 25 Mentions of natural vegetation
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Titre Figure 26 Mentions of wildlife
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 264k
Titre Figure 26 Ethnicity
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/39739/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Axel Baudouin, « Mapping in colonial times: La Côte française des Somalis et contrées avoisinantes by Alexandre Meunier (1908-1909)  », Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Environnement, Nature, Paysage, document 1035, mis en ligne le 10 novembre 2022, consulté le 29 novembre 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/39739 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/cybergeo.39739

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Auteur

Axel Baudouin

Ass. Prof. (emeritus)
Department of Geography, NTNU, Trondheim (Norway)
axel_baudouin@hotmail.com

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