Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 30172
Application of Geographic Information Systems(GIS) in the History of Cartography

Authors: Bangbo Hu


This paper discusses applications of a revolutionary information technology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), in the field of the history of cartography by examples, including assessing accuracy of early maps, establishing a database of places and historical administrative units in history, integrating early maps in GIS or digital images, and analyzing social, political, and economic information related to production of early maps. GIS provides a new mean to evaluate the accuracy of early maps. Four basic steps using GIS for this type of study are discussed. In addition, several historical geographical information systems are introduced. These include China Historical Geographic Information Systems (CHGIS), the United States National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS), and the Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System. GIS also provides digital means to display and analyze the spatial information on the early maps or to layer them with modern spatial data. How GIS relational data structure may be used to analyze social, political, and economic information related to production of early maps is also discussed in this paper. Through discussion on these examples, this paper reveals value of GIS applications in this field.

Keywords: Cartography, GIS, history, maps.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 2578


[1] Murphy, Joan. "Measures of Map Accuracy Assessment and Some Early Ulster Maps." Irish Geography vol. 11, 1978, pp.88-101.
[2] Andrews, J. H. 1975. "Motive and method in historical cartometry. Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference on the History of Cartography, Greenwich, p. 11.
[3] Tobler, W. R. 1966. "Medieval distortions: The projections of ancient maps." Annals of the Association of American Geographers vol. 56, number 2, pp. 351-360.
[4] Ravenhill, William and Andrew Gilg. 1974. The accuracy of early maps? Towards a computer aided method. Cartographic Journal vol. 11, number 1, pp. 48-52.
[5] Ravenhill, William. 1976. As to its position in respect to the Heavens. Imago Mundi vol. 28, pp. 79-93.
[6] Stone, J. C. and A. M. D. Gemmell. 1977. An experiment in the comparative analysis of distortion on historical maps. Cartographic Journal vol. 14, pp. 7-11.
[7] Murphy, Joan. 1978. Measures of map accuracy assessment and some early Ulster maps. Irish Geography vol. 11, pp. 88-101.
[8] Lindsay, James M. 1980. The assessment of transient patterns on historic maps--a case study. The Cartographic Journal vol. 17, number 1, pp. 16-20.
[9] Mekenkamp, Peter G. M. 1989. Geometric cartography: The accuracy of old maps. In XIIIth International Conference on the History of Cartography: Abstracts ed. Paul van den Brink, Marc Hameleers, and Peter van der Krogt, pp. 87-89. Amsterdam and the Haugue.
[10] Livieratos, E; M. Valsamaki; C. Boutoura; E. Farantaki; and M. Asteriabou. 1995. Cartometric analysis of Ptolemy-s maps of Greece. Paper presented at The Sixteenth International Conference on the History of Cartography, Vienna.
[11] Hu, Bangbo. "Assessing the Accuracy of the Map of the Prefectural Capital of 1261 Using Geographic Information Systems." The Professional Geographer volume 53, number1, 2001, pp. 32-44.
[12] Bol, Peter K. and Ge Jianxiong co-ed. 2001. China Historical Geographical Information Systems (CHGIS).
[13] United State National Historical Geographic Information System,
[14] The Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System
[15] Rumsey, David and Meredith Williams. "Historical Maps in GIS." Chapter 1 in Anne Kelly Knowles ed, Past Time, Past Place: GIS for History. ESRI Press, San Diego, 2002.
[16] The Library of Congress Geography and Map Division,
[17] United States Digital Map Library,
[18] David Rumsey Historical Map Collection,
[19] The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee American Geographic Society Library Digital MapCollection
[20] Washington State University
[21] Library of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
[22] National Library of Scotland,
[23] Rundstrom, Robert A. "A Cultural Interpretation of Inuit Map Accuracy." The Geographical Review Volume 80 number 2, 1990, pp. 155-168.
[24] Lewis, G. Malcolm. Entry of "Cartography, History of." The Dictionary of Human Geography ed. R. J. Johnston, Derek Gregory and David M. Smith. Third Edition. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, 1993.
[25] Harley, J. B. "Deconstructing the Map." Cartographicavolume, 26 number 2, 1989, pp. 1-20.
[26] Needham, Joseph. 1959. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 517.
[27] Zhang, Guogan. 1962. Zhongguo gu fangzhi kao.(Bibliographical Research on Ancient Gazetteers in China). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, preface, p. 2.
[28] Bol, Peter K. 2001. "The Rise of Local History: History,Geography, and Culture in Southern Song and Yuan Wuzhou."Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 61/1: 37-76.
[29] Hargett, James M. 1996. "Song Dynasty Local Gazetteers and Their Place in the History of Difangzhi Writing." Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 56 /2: 405-442.
[30] Fan, Wenlan. General History of China (Zhongguo tongshi) Vol. 5, written by Cai Meibiao and others. Renmin chubanshe, Beijing, 1978.
[31] Harley, J. B. and David Woodward, eds. The History of Cartography vol. 1, Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean.The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987.