p. 4202

Supplement to Part XI (Authorities
bearing on the meaning and
application of the term “ Coast.”)

No. 1615.


By J.A.J. DE VILLIERS, F.R.G.S. (late Deputy Keeper in the
Printed Books Department of the British Museum and
Officer in charge of Maps).


This terminology appeals to be but very little used in cartography. Barbary, Barbaria, Berbery are the most frequent appellations, and the only reputable map so far discovered that mentions the Barbary Coast as such is one by Sanson, dated 1655,1 the legend on which runs :—

Partie de la Coste de Barbarie en Afrique ou sont les Royaumes de Tunis et Tripoli et pays circomvoisins tirés de Sanuto et d'autres.

This title clearly implies that the region covered by the term “ coast ” comprises in this case the whole of the Kingdoms of Tunis and Tripoli and much besides.

A map accompanying the “ Geografia ” of Livio Sanuto, published in 15882 gives as Barbaria the whole of the northern coast of Africa from the Red Sea to the Atlantic with an average depth of 250 miles.


The extent of this is well illustrated by the three following maps :—

A map of the Coast of Coromandel accompanying a History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan, London, 1763.3

A new and accurate map of the seat of the late war on the Coast of Coromandel in The General History of the Late War,” by John Entick, London, 1775.4

A map of the East India Company's lands on the Coast of Coromandel, from an actual survey made . . . . by Thomas Barnard . . . . Published by Alexander Dalrymple, 1778.5

In all of these the depth of the country known as the Coromandel Coast appears to be at least 120 miles.

1B.M.K. 117.60.2B.M. 15. d. 20.3B.M. 800. 1. 16.
4B.M. 599. f. 18.5B.M. 52615 (l.)

p. 4203


In “ Africa according to Mr. d'Anville ”—a map published by Robert Sayer in 17721—there is an inset giving “ A Chart of the Gold Coast . . . . improv'd from Mr. d'Anville.”

A note in the inset states that “ it takes its name from the vast quantities of gold that is imported from the inland countries and sold to the Europeans by the negroes, the shore itself producing but very little of that mineral. There is nothing on the map to indicate exploration inland for more than 60 miles.

In a map compiled by the well-known geographer E. G. Ravenstein, published in “ Ocean Highways,” in July, 1873,2 and based on most authoritative sources, the territory shown on the Gold Coast as British protectorate has a depth in parts of about 80 miles.

The official survey maps issued by the British Government in 19073 show the Gold Coast (including Gold Coast Colony, Ashanti and the Northern Territories) as extending along the coast line for 334 miles and inland at some points to a distance of 440 miles, with a total area of 78,650 square miles.

The Carte de l'Afrique Occidentale Française (Service Géographique des Colonies), officially issued by the French Government in 1919, shows this equally well, and a photostat of that map giving both the Gold Coast and the Ivory Coast (a French possession) has been included in the small Atlas accompanying this Memorandum.


The extent of this territory is well shown in the two following maps :—

Côte d'Ivoire, accompanying the Annuaire du Gouvernement général de l'Afrique Occidentale francaise, 1913-14.4

Carte de la Côte d'Ivoire, accompanying a work by Gaston Joseph, entitled “ La Côte d'Ivoire,” a semi-official publication. Paris, 1917.5

Both these maps give the eastern and western boundaries as the rivers Tanoe and Cavally respectively, whilst the inland boundary is at least 300 miles from the sea, thus giving to the territory—as in the case of British Guiana—considerably more depth inland than breadth along the shore ; its actual area is 126,100 square miles.
For the map included in the accompanying Atlas see the concluding paragraph on the Gold Coast (supra).

1B.M. 184.g.2. (6.)2B.M. P.P. 3947.i.3B.M. 65330. (20.)
4P.P. 2578. e.510094. dd. l.

p. 4204


as the definition of a territorial district of the Indian Peninsula, had more significance in the eighteenth century than it has to-day, when it is included politically in the province of Madras. The district is bounded physically by the Western Ghats and its depth from the sea-shore is therefore seldom more than 50 miles.

A map by G. de L'Isle, published in Parisin 1723, entitled “ Carte des Côtes de Malabar,”1 may be compared with a modern map of India in any Standard Atlas.


The best map to illustrate the extent of the territory comprised within the above appellation is that published in 1787 by William Faden, Geographer to the King, entitled : “ Mosquitia or the Mosquito Shore.” 2
This shows Mosquitia as constituting quite a third of the modern political states of Honduras and Nicaragua and extending inland and westwards from the Atlantic Coast some 150 miles.
In a treatise entitled La Mosquitia by Dr. R. Beltran Rozpide, published in Madrid in 1910,3 occur the following passages :
“ The territory to-day known as Mosquitia or country and shore of the Mosquitos4 forms part of the Atlantic Coast of the ancient government and province of Honduras and of the early government of Veragua.
“ When independence was effected Honduras and Nicaragua entered into negotiations with Great Britain5 for the first mentioned to remain in possession of its own Mosquitia and for the second to acquire sovereignty over the Mosquitia of Veragua.
“ Great Britain in 1859 recognised as pertaining to Honduras the territory occupied or possessed by the Mosquito Indians within the boundary of the Republic, a boundary which, according to an earlier treaty of 1856, runs along the middle of the River Wanks or Segovia, which disembogues at Cape Gracias-a-Dios.
“ Negotiations between Nicaragua and Great Britain resulted in the Treaty of Managua on Jan. 28, 1860, by virtue of which the Mosquito Reserve remained bounded on the north by the River Hueso, on the east by the sea, on the south by the River Rama, and on the west by the meridian from Greenwich 84° 15'.”

1K. 115. 62.2B.M. 78980. (7.)3B.M. 09008. bb. 6. (2.)
4The name of the predominant native tribe, who were formerly under British protection.
5See the preceding note for an explanation of this.

p. 4205


The signification of the term “ coast ” in the eighteenth century is well illustrated by the following extract from the work of an eminent Dutch writer on colonial history.
The work, which was much quoted during the arbitrations between Great Britain, Venezuela and Brazil, is accompanied by a map of the whole of the region formerly generally known as Guiana—practically an island bounded by the Orinoco on the north-west, the Atlantic on the north-east, the Rio Negro on the south-west and the Amazons on the south. In the centre of that region the cartographer has set the words “ Guiana Caribania or the Wild Coast.” This designation is also found fully a century earlier in a map compiled by le Père du Val, of Abbeville, “ Géographe du Roi,” entitled : “ La Guiane ou Coste Sauvage autrement El Dorado et Pais des Amazones,” 1654 ; this map was reproduced in the Atlas accompanying the British Case in the British Guiana—Venezuela Boundary Arbitration, 1898.


(The work is in Dutch ; the title and following extract have therefore been literally translated to facilitate an examination of their exactitude.)



The region called by the Indians Guiana, also by its inhabitants, mostly Caribs, Caribania, and by us the Wild Coast, lies in the north-eastern portion of South America, along the Ocean, between the rivers Viapari, called by us the Orinoco, and the Maranon, which we call the Amazons (which are regarded as the two largest rivers of South America, and, indeed, by many expert geographers, amongst the greatest of the whole world), being at the River Orinoco side, in the latitude of 8° 20' north, and in 318° of longitude, and on that of the Amazons on the equator in the longitude of 329° 10'.
Its boundaries are therefore, on the north, the River Orinoco, and on the south that of the Amazons, being washed on the east by the ocean and bounded on the west by the Rio Negro or the Black River, so called by reason of the colour of its water : the latter is a fine, large and navigable river, uniting the two before-mentioned, namely, the Orinoco and the Amazons, so that Guiana, surrounded on the north, west and south by the said rivers

1B.M. 10480. g. 8.

p. 4206

and shut in on the east by the ocean, comprises from north to south more than 125 miles of 15 in 1 degree, and from the east to the west, between Rio Negro and the ocean, more than three hundred miles and borders upon the new kingdom of Grenada, Peru and Brazil.

The territories lying within the boundaries above described can best be defined according to modern political divisions as follows :—

All of Venezuela south of the Orinoco, approximately 181,864 square miles ;

The whole of British Guiana, approximately 89,480 square miles ;

The whole of Dutch Guiana, approximately 49,845 square miles ;

The whole of French Guiana, approximately 35,000 square miles ;

Brazilian Guiana (i.e., all of Brazil bounded by the Amazons on the S. and by the Rio Negro on the W.), approximately 190,000 square miles.

Total (approximately) of square miles in Guiana or the Wild Coast —550,000.



No. 1. BARBARY COAST. By Sanson. 1665.

No. 2. COROMANDEL COAST. From John Entick's “ History of the Late War.” London, 1775.

No. 3. GOLD COAST., IVORY COAST. Carte de l'Afrique Occidentale Française (Service Géographique des Colonies). Feuille 5. 3e édition. 1919.

No. 4. MALABAR COAST. By G. de L'Isle. 1723.

No. 5. MOSQUITO COAST. By Wm. Faden. 1787.

No. 6. WILD COAST. From J. J. Hartsinck's “ Beschrijving van Guiana.” 1770.


Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home