The Role of Mapping in the Formation of South America’s Political Boundaries and Territorial Disputes

Justin Henry Franco


The purpose of the research is to analyze the political context in which maps were used in South America, from the colonial era of the 15th century to the 20th century. A main area of focus for the research will be to examine the political basis for South America's current territorial boundaries by illustrating the fragmentation of Spain's South American Empire through the use of historically accurate maps. Territorial disputes that arose following the collapse of Spain's South American Empire will be studied in order to determine the effects that mapping and diplomacy had in furthering rival boundary claims. Extensive literature exists concerning the regional disputes that dominated South America during the 19th and 20th century, however this research offers additional insight into the conflicts by analyzing how the use of mapping in territorial disputes changed from the 19th to the 20th century. The research was conducted by evaluating both written and cartographical references from academic professionals and accredited map collections. Initial findings indicate that the decentralization of Spain's colonial empire during the 18th century facilitated its fragmentation during the struggle for independence in the 19th century. Also a preliminary analysis of maps from professional academic collections conclude that the use of mapping to futher territorial claims was more widespread during the regional conflicts of the 20th century. The use of mapping to further territorial claims was especially common in countries that exhibited no political authority over the disputed territory.



South America, boundary disputes, maps

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