Maps and views blog

27 October 2014

Maps relating to the Middle East now available online

 A new bilingual (English and Arabic) online resource has emerged giving access to digital copies of archival materials from the British Library collections relating to Persian Gulf history and Arabic science. Over 500 maps had been catalogued and contextualised with geospatial metadata produced. The descriptions and high resolution zoomable images are available at

Detail of A copy of a chart of the Persian Gulf produced in the second half of the 17th century by an anonymous Dutch chart maker. British Library shelfmark: IOR/X/414/220.

The core of the cartographic resources is formed of official maps associated with the records of the successive British administrations in the region and comes from the India Office Records (IOR) map collection.

The selection available on the portal comprises maps, plans and sections dating from the mid-18th to mid-20th century. The geographical scope covers the Persian Gulf region, including the general maps of the whole Arabian Peninsula, the coastal depiction of the Gulf, nautical charts with navigation features, and detailed maps of smaller areas within the region, revealing locations of tribes, various routes (travel, pilgrimage and sea routes etc.) as well as historical events and communication technologies (telegraph lines etc.). Moreover, as the IOR material was produced or copied for administrative purposes and regarded as a reference tool, a large number of items bare extensive annotations making them a unique research resource.

IOR_X_3210_f001 - detail
View of the town of Maskat, detail, from A revised map of Omân and the Persian Gulf, in which an attempt has been made to give a correct transliteration of the Arabic names. By the Rev. George Percy Badger, F.R.G.S. British Library shelfmark: IOR/X/3210.

The portal developed by the British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership was launched on 22 October and contains up to 500,000 digital objects over a wide range of formats including archives, manuscripts, maps, visual material and sound recordings, including oral histories and music.

Magdalena Peszko, Map Curator, British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership