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How the United States Looked to the Civilized World in 1803

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In 1803, the United States was still struggling to be taken seriously as a nation. Still, it seemed promising enough that the great civilization known as the Ottoman Empire began to take notice of it. This gorgeous map is one of the earliest and most detailed that Ottoman geographers produced of the region.

Over at Slate, Nick Danforth describes what the map shows us:

In this map, the newly independent U.S. is labeled "The Country of the English People" ("İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi"). The Iroquois Confederacy shows up as well, labeled the "Government of the Six Indian Nations." Other tribes shown on the map include the Algonquin, Chippewa, Western Sioux (Siyu-yu Garbî), Eastern Sioux (Siyu-yu Şarkî), Black Pawnees (Kara Panis), and White Pawnees (Ak Panis).

The Ottoman Empire, which at the time this map was drawn included much of the Balkans and the Middle East, used a version of the Turkish language written in a slightly modified Arabic script. Ottoman script works particularly well on maps, because it allows cartographers to label wide regions by elongating the lines connecting individual letters.


It wasn't until the early twentieth century that the leader Attaturk mandated that Turkish be written using Roman letters. At the time this map was made, the Ottoman Empire was one of the world's most advanced scientific and technological societies. So this map meant, in some sense, that even the greatest world powers were interested in this backwater nation called the United States.

The map also provides a window on how the Ottomans viewed all the Indian tribes. The region encompassed by the Ottoman Empire was full of tribal peoples, and indeed the Turks proudly claim a tribal group as their ancestors. So it makes sense that their geographers acknowledged Indian tribes as legitimate governments when drawing this map — their territories are emphasized as much as the "country of the English people."


Read more at Slate.