Constructing the Monsoon: Colonial Meteorological Cartography, 1844–1944


  • Beth Cullen University of Westminster
  • Christina Leigh Geros University of Westminster


monsoon, colonial meteorology, cartography


Meteorological cartographies provide a way of tracing understandings of the monsoon through the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This paper analyses developments in cartographic representations of the monsoon, from nautical charts to synoptic charts to upper-air charts, to show how such visualisations constructed meteorological knowledge. Assemblages of weather phenomena, people, politics, technologies, instruments, and graphic techniques produced these representations; in turn, these representations were leveraged in pursuit of human agendas. New perspectives and means of recording the monsoon contributed to the non-linear progression of monsoon science, from maritime understandings depicted in nautical charts, to fusions of maritime and terrestrial understandings depicted in synoptic charts, to atmospheric understandings depicted in upper-air charts. Although overlapping, these shifting modes of observation and representation mirrored shifting imperial concerns from oceanic trade to revenue extraction to global aviation. Analysing these visual representations, and the assemblages that produced them, reveals changing constructions of the monsoon and associated colonial agendas.