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Map of Baghdad

Map of Baghdad 1853-1854 taken from - Memoirs of Baghdad, Kurdistan and Turkish Arabia 1857.

By Commander J.F. Jones, I.N. a nineteenth century original with a new preface by Dr. R. M. Burrell, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

This beautiful map is one of the oldest city plans in the Middle East, there being no such others in existence for cities like Cairo or Mecca until the early twentieth century.

This paper is nothing less than an encyclopaedia of information on Baghdad in the mid-nineteenth century. There are very few aspects of that city's life and daily activities which are not discussed.

The report includes nine folding colour plates showing urban and river scenes; but therein lies something of a mystery. Jones thanks the English surgeon, Dr. J. Hyslop, for "his photographs" on which those plates are based. The basic principles of photography had been discovered by the early 1840's, but the first known examples from Arabia were previously believed to be the work on an Egyptian army officer, Colonel Muhammad Sadiq, who took images of the holy city of Medina in the Hijaz in 1861. But Jones's report was completed six-years previously, and if Hyslop already possessed photographs of Baghdad for inclusion in it, these would undoubtedly be the earliest known examples from the region.

The remarkable thing of the map of Baghdad is that the Ottoman authorities, hostile to the growing presence of the British, were even less keen to see a survey of the city which might be the prelude to the further expansion of British influence there at a time of growing imperial rivalry with Russia over India.

However, Commander Jones intended to map the city despite the restrictions he faced. Secretly, he put together this detailed plan of Baghdad by sending W. Collingwood, a Midshipman in the Indian Navy, into the streets to take measurements and bring them back to him to collate. The surveyor is said to have jotted down his observations on his shirt cuff! When the map was completed its existence was kept secret, but the Ottoman authorities later became aware of it. Due to the absence of any other comparable plans of their own, and given its acknowledged reliability, in 1912 the Ottoman Governor of Baghdad made an official request for a copy of it in order to assist with the implementation of various schemes of municipal reform.

Scribe: The main scheme of municipal reform planned by the Ottoman authorities was the opening of a thoroughfare from North Gate to South Gate which later became Rashid Street.



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