British Library Releases Online Collection of Maps and Other Materials

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. catalog / ˈkæt lˌɔg / (v) – to organize things in lists, groups, etc.

    Books about space and physics are cataloged in the library’s science section.

  2. fortification / ˌfɔr tə fɪˈkeɪ ʃən / (n) – the act of building military defenses to protect a place

    The army created an effective fortification plan to keep the city from being attacked.

  3. cartography / kɑrˈtɒg rə fi / (n) – the skill or process of creating maps

    Many early explorers also studied cartography so that they could document the places they visited.

  4. influence / ˈɪn flu əns / (n) – power or authority that someone/something has over another person, organization, place, etc.

    Canada was under Britain’s influence for more than 100 years.

  5. vivid / ˈvɪv ɪd / (adj) – very clear, bright, or detailed

    I have a vivid memory of what my old school looks like.


Read the text below.

The British Library has uploaded a collection of maps and other materials to its online platform for free viewing.

The collection has been digitized without copyright restrictions as part of a seven-year project to catalog and preserve the collection of George III, king of 18th-century Great Britain. It includes over 18,000 maps, highly detailed illustrations of battles, fortification strategies, drawings of uniforms, and some rough sketches created in the field. The collection was put together to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the late king’s death.

Through the collection, viewers will be able to study warfare and cartography during King George III’s reign.

The collection contains a total of 44,000 items, and the remaining ones will also be digitized later on. The maps and other materials are arranged by location, with around 40% devoted to the British Isles, 30% covering much of continental Europe, and 10% dedicated to areas formerly under Britain’s influence, such as North America and India.

Materials in the collection are from the 16th to 19th centuries. They provide a vivid image of the wars in Europe, America, and Britain at the time. Two-meter-wide maps from the American War of Independence are among the collection’s highlights.

The maps will be accessible through the British Library’s Georeferencer, an interactive app where users can compare historic maps with current maps. In addition, the collection is available on the photo-sharing website Flickr and is part of the permanent physical exhibit called Treasures of the British Library. Guests can visit the exhibit for free, but they are required to book an appointment.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think that it’s a good idea to digitize old materials like maps? Why or why not?
• Do you think the digitized materials should be available for free? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think historical materials are more accessible now than they were before? Why or why not?
• If you could access historical materials from any country, which country would you choose? Why?