Mapping the Early Cape

This project will digitally map Le Vaillant’s journey from the account of his journey into the interior of the Cape of Good Hope (1781-83). The Voyage de M. le Vaillant dans l’Interieur de l’Afrique par le Cap de Bonne-Espérance (1790) stands out for its detailed ethnography of the amaXhosa and Khoe people; for its natural history; and for its cartography. The text offers unique insights into South Africa’s early colonial period, and the natural history arising from this ‘first safari’ is directly reflected in French museum collections. Furthermore, Le Vaillant created the elaborate ‘King’s Map’ in response to a commission from Louis XVI. Our new digital map will be enriched by historic images, documents and newly commissioned site photographs. The resulting open-access website will have a distinctive identity but also provide a template for the mapping of other European travelers in the early Cape colony: these will generate public-facing history out of historical archives. The project is led by Grant Parker (Stanford University) and Olivier Loiseaux (Bibliothèque nationale de France), supported by Stanford undergraduates, in consultation with an international team of scholars and heritage professionals.


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