Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Wendy Singer

Second Advisor

Hilary Buxton


This thesis examines the geographies and writings of Major James Rennell and puts Rennell’s work in the context of greater colonial knowledge-gathering. Cartography in Europe during the eighteenth century was undergoing a standardization process and the field was to be understood as scientific and objective. Rennell’s work was celebrated among his contemporaries as the most detailed and accurate geographical depiction of India. Rennell’s maps however, could not depict the entirety of India’s landscape, leaving out details such as people, or the crops that grew there. His maps were limited in this respect. Rennell’s maps also cast an imperial gaze over India and functioned to increase the British East India Company's control over India. Rennell’s geographies would become entrenched in an understanding of India, having lasting impacts into the twenty-first century. For this reason it is important to not only understand cartography as a science, but also a deeply political act.

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