Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Imperial Airways: The Worldwide Routes, 1937

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection is one of the world's great cartographic archives; with over 150,000 items in its holdings at Stanford University. Fully searchable and viewable online, it is a wonderful resource. 

The last post, with the global-projection map of Oman Air, has some affinity with the earliest route maps at the down of the pre-war commercial aviation era, specifically this detailed item showing the Air Lines of Imperial Airways in 1937, at an extent which would not be resurrected until after World War Two. 

What is particularly remarkable about this map is how complex it is, with two world projections duplicating similar information, which itself is intertwined with many various, and vaguely articulated 'cooperation' operations carried out by unnamed 'other air transport companies.' 

As expected, the trunk routes of the empire fan out from London, with a trans-European line spanning Central Europe to terminate at Budapest, while a second, trans-Mediterranean line runs from Marseille to Athens to Mirabella (today known as Elounda) in Crete, finally crossing the greater part of the middle sea to reach first Alexandria and then Cairo, from whence the great route begins to touch at way-stations within Britain's various post-Ottoman holdings in the Near East, and ultimately eastward to the major outposts of Empire in India, Malaya, and Australia, as we will see in the next post. 

A second line continues southward toward Luxor, continuing onwards to Sub-Saharan Africa, which a subsequent post will examine in detail.