Sven Outram-Leman

Sven Outram-Leman  Details

  Division: History




Title of research topic

Britain’s Pre-Colonial Cartography of West Africa, 1749-1841

Supervisors: Dr Phia Steyn & Dr Paul Adderley  


I completed my undergraduate at the University of Stirling in 2011 and was fortunate enough to secure funding from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to pursue a postgraduate Master of Research (MRes) course in concert with Stirling in 2011/12.

My research for SNH focused on cultural landscapes in the Cairngorms National Park where I aimed to demonstrate the rich history of interaction between people and their environment from the late seventeenth century. In the course of this research I became interested in the various ways individuals and institutions viewed and valued the land around them. In particular, I was drawn to the improvement ideology of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries and the manner in which people tried to understand and engage with the natural world through surveys and mapping.

In January and February 2013 I was involved with a multinational project titled ‘Crossroads of Empires’ that was operating along the Niger River in northern Benin, West Africa. Through various multidisciplinary approaches, the team I worked with sought to broaden our understanding of how people in that region had historically lived and traded across a broad area. My responsibilities were limited to surveying the sites with Differential GPS for the purpose of producing 3D models of the terrain. During my time in West Africa I read the journals of Europeans who had first explored that land in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where I was able to put their trials into perspective.

I put my PhD proposal together from my experience of West Africa and my interest in mapping. My research now focuses on how the extension of British activity in West Africa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was intertwined with the development of cartography and evolution of cartographic literacy. Both are interconnected: further interaction encouraged the production of better maps, whilst the improvement of map-making and map-use influenced the form and scope of continued activity. To understand the contributions of one process to the other, we gain a better understanding of Britain’s interaction with West Africa in the pre-colonial period.

Research Interests

  • Exploration
  • Cartography and cartographic history
  • Historic interactions between people and places
  • The formation, authorisation and articulation of knowledge
  • Pre-colonial contact with the non-European world
  • African History
  • Environmental history
  • North Atlantic History

Further information 

Publication: Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 554 'Ecosystem Service Provision in the Cairngorm National Park' (Spring, 2013)


Arts and Humanities Research Council & the University of Stirling Impact Fund support my PhD.

I have also received the Santander Doctoral Travel Award to fund my attendance at the British Scholar Society’s ‘Britain and the World’ conference in Austin, Texas.

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