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India Office Records map collections

The India Office Records in the British Library comprise over 70,000 manuscripts and printed maps, atlases, journals and reports. Many of the maps were originally linked with East India Company and India Office files and correspondence. As an international archive and information resource of the mapping of pre-1947 South Asia, the collections continue to acquire relevant manuscript and printed maps.

The main or reference collection of manuscript and printed maps is an artificial one, originally dating from the 17th century. The inflow into East India House of maps enclosed in official letters from India brought with it the need to house such unwieldy documents separately. Maps and charts were routinely detached from the letters to which they related, and were 'laid by,' along with ships' journals and logs, for future reference. These maps and charts came to be regarded as a collection worthy to be organised and exploited in publication.

The chief strength of the main Map Collection in the India Office Records is in 1750-1950 official large-scale survey and topographical mapping of South Asia, particular the countries now India, Pakistan, Burma, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran and Nepal, with coverage also of Sri Lanka and Peninsular Malaysia. The nautical chart collections attest to East India Company marine activity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, until the transfer of chart survey and publishing to the Admiralty Hydrographic Office by stages in the 1850s and 1860s. Smaller-scale maps and large-scale plans reflect and illustrate respectively India's foreign affairs and the military and civil administration of British India up to 1947. A particular feature of the collection is the pioneering and exploring survey work of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, recorded in the surveyors' large-scale manuscript maps and geographical memoirs.


Various finding aids kept on the India Office Records Press Lists shelves in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room