Brussels 2023

The Imperialist Turn in 19th and 20th Century Mapping

International Symposium on the History of Cartography
Palace of the Academies, Brussels, Belgium
30-31 May 2023

From Tuesday 30 May till Wednesday 31 May 2023 the ICA Commission on the History of Cartography and the Belgian Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences jointly hosted an international conference on colonial cartography. This was organized as a hybrid event, both face-to-face at the Palace of the Academies in Brussels and via livestream.


The 21st century map image of continents beyond Europe is still decisively shaped by inherited aesthetics and content dating back to the turn from explorative to imperialist cartography. The symposium welcomed contributions (papers and posters) to analyse aspects of the imperialist Global North hegemony by investigating topographic mapping, hydrographic charting, and thematic mapping in personal, institutional, and regional case studies. The regional scope of the conference were overseas continents and seascapes within the time frame from about the Napoleonic wars to the European de-colonization in the mid-twentieth century (1940s to 1960s).
Explore the full conference programme here.


Participants are invited to submit a full paper of their presentation for inclusion in a RAOS Conference Proceedings volume. Papers (in Eglish, max. 15p., full guidelines here) should be sent to and by 30 September 2023 at the latest.


The conference’s scientific programme of lectures took place all day on Tuesday 30 May and on Wednesday morning 31 May. On Wednesday afternoon, conference participants had the opportunity to join a free excursion to the AfricaMuseum in Tervuren, for a guided visit to see some of the museum’s cartographic treasures.

Participants who were still in Brussels on Thursday morning 1 June at 9:30 am were able to also enjoy a visit to the Map room of the Royal Library of Belgium, themed “Not just Congo. Belgian colonial mapping in the 19th and 20th centuries”.


Questions regarding the symposium can be directed to:
Imre Demhardt – ICA Commission on the History of Cartography: demhardt(at)
Philippe De Maeyer – Belgian Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences: philippe.demaeyer(at)