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The Dictionary Project, Volume X: Africa, Central and South

The Dictionary Project is a post-a-day exploration of The Century Dictionary and Cylopedia, a twelve-volume set printed in New York in 1901. The Project runs from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, and matches volume numbers to calendar months. Volume X is The Atlas, and today is Day 26.

Today is also Day 2 of a look at Africa. This time: the Central and South portions of the continent. More European colonialism after the jump.

1897 Map of Africa (Central)

Poor Kamerun (and I prefer that spelling to the modern “Cameroon”, for some reason); we never get to see the whole country up close. On the other hand, it does appear on four separate maps. And at least its name seems to be the name its native peoples call it, even if it’s been somewhat Europeanized. The same cannot be said for the majority of Central Africa in 1897. Most of these territories have names that follow the formula “[European power] [compass point and/or relative position] Africa”.  German East Africa. British East Africa. Portuguese West Africa. German Southwest Africa. British South Africa. British Central Africa. The naming convention speaks volumes, doesn’t it? I am reminded not a little of a pack of dogs peeing on trees. No wonder the people of southeast of the Kongo River put “free” into the name of their country, the Kongo Free State.

Almost nothing on this map still has the same name. Cameroon’s is still pronounced the same way, but the spelling has changed. And everything else? Totally different. We still have compass points and relative positions in names like South Sudan and Central African Republic,  but at least there are no other countries’ names at the beginning of those names. French Kongo is now Congo; Kongo Free State is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Portuguese West Africa is better known now as Angola, and German Southwest Africa is now called Namibia.

British East Africa is now Kenya and Uganda, and Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi have supplanted the Germans in East Africa. The State of East Africa is now Mozambique, and British South Africa is variously Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Botswana on this map, and all of modern South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland on the next map.

1897 Map of Africa (South)

This last map shows a part of the world I have been to! Twice. And I’m going back in April 2015, gods willing and the creek don’t rise. My dad was born in “North Zambesia” (Zambia) on this map, and grew up in “South Zambesia” (Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe). His whole family (except one niece who lives in England) is still back there, and we are very fortunate to be able to visit them. South Africa is pretty nearly the exact opposite side of the globe from where I live; it amazes me to know this, and to have visited so distant a place several times. I am fortunate, indeed.

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