This 1889 map of trans-Saharan trading routes by French explorer Edouard Blanc reflects the growing priority that Europeans gave to land-based trade during the late 19th-century imperial “scramble for Africa.” In articles about his work, Blanc stressed the importance of identifying “natural” geographic routes that would connect French colonial possessions in west Africa, such as Senegal, to Algeria in north Africa, and link the Mediterranean coast to Sudan and central Africa. Blanc based his maps not only on his own travels but also on nearly a century of reports from European travelers dating back to the Englishman W. G. Browne’s 1793 voyage to Darfur. Features identified on the map include dunes, rivers, and dry valleys as well as Arab caravan routes, colonial railways, and roads. The routes of several European explorers also are documented, including Gustav Nachtigal’s 1869 expedition to Sudan, Oskar Lenz’s travels from Morocco to Timbuktu in 1880, the 1880 voyage to Sudan by the Italians Matteucci and Massari, and several French expeditions from the Algerian coast, including that of Colonieu in 1860 from Oran and of Flatters from Constantine in 1880-81.
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