I'm fairly certain I've seen this in the past and I highly doubt I'm making this up - I'm not sure whether it was of the British Empire or Japan's or maybe even some other nation - but I'm fairly certain I once saw a map in which one of the aforementioned nations made their own borders a whole lot bigger than they actually were as a sort of propaganda. Or it might've been an inflated size "competing" with a rival/opposing nation. I was hoping someone could confirm this.

  • 5
    There are several possible meanings to your question. Making your maps reflect your claims (e.g. Argentina official maps show the Falklands as part of the country) is not that unusual. Apart from that, maps do have distortions and there was some criticism of the use of the Mercator projection as a de facto standard because it "enlarged" North America, Europe and Russia while making tropical countries look like smaller and less important. What are you refering to?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 9:35
  • 2
    @SJuan76: OTOH, the Mercator projection makes Greenland look REALLY important :-)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 16:28

1 Answer 1


There are a number of possibilities here, though none fully meet your criteria. Aside from the Mercator distortion mentioned by SJuan76 in his comment, you may be thinking of the McDonald Gill Highways of Empire map from 1927 which

placed the British Isles in the centre of the frame and projected, in red, the overseas empire around them, in somewhat distorted and exaggerated size.

Source: John M. MacKenzie, John MacDonald MacKenzie (eds), 'Imperialism and Popular Culture'

Note also that French Africa has been compressed, though this may not have been a deliberate attempt to belittle a colonial rival.

enter image description here

Source: For God and Empire 2.0

According to this British Library article, this map was

a 20ft x 10ft hemispherical projection of the world. Produced in 16 sheets, this was the largest poster ever produced at that time and required specially-built hoardings.

It was commissioned by the newly-formed Empire Marketing Board (EMB) to bolster the links and promote trade with the colonies, who were beginning to push for independence. With Britain at its centre, the map depicts the extraordinary extent of the British territories and their maritime links, with modern steamships plying the waves alongside medieval-style sea monsters.

Perhaps the best examples of exploiting the distortion created by the Mercator projection are maps such as the one below, which also includes Siam / Thailand in 'British Indochina'.

enter image description here

(Click on image to enlarge). Map source

It was a map such as this on which Clement Attlee, future British Labour Prime Minister commented:

On the wall at school hung a great map with large portions of it coloured red. It was an intoxicating vision for a small boy....We believed in our great imperial vision.

Cited in James R. Akerman (ed), 'The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire'

An even cruder distortion of reality is the map below from 1900 which has Australia - and then quite a bit more Australia...

enter image description here

Image source: goldiproductions

For good measure, there's also a map (dated 1937) featuring one-and-bit-more Canadas. Earlier, in 1893, George R. Parkin's The British Empire Map of the World had two complete Australias. Parkin was

a Canadian secondary school teacher who was a self-proclaimed publicist for the Empire...

...Parkin lobbied for the adoption of his map, and it was accepted by the 1894 Colonial Conference in Ottawa as the official cartographical representation of the Empire.

Source: Arthur Jay Klinghoffer, 'The Power of Projections: How Maps Reflect Global Politics and History'

enter image description here

Source: WW0@1892 Book Review: G. Parkin’s Imperial Federation

Klinghoffer also mentions

The “Kapp globe,” made in Nuremberg about 1871–80, was produced for the British market, and it intentionally portrayed a British world image. The only country labeled in a Europe crowded with cities and rivers was “British Isles,” and its size was enhanced.

Mark S. Monmonier's How to Lie with Maps is a virtual handbook on how to get maps to deliver a particular message. Examples of expanding borders include (inevitably) maps from India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, as well as Argentine postage stamps with the Falklands / Malvinas (as cited by SJuan76 in his comment).

Often, though, the aim was to encourage sympathy for a supposedly put-upon nation; this involved emphasizing the size disadvantage of one territory over another. This tactic was used, for example, by the Nazis in Facts in Review, aimed at eliciting sympathy for Germany by (for example) comparing the size of Germany to that of the British empire.

  • None of these seem to be deliberate distortions for propaganda purposes, but just reflections of the mathematical impossibility of accurately projecting a sphere onto a plane. The Mercator projection, while it distorts areas, allows courses to be drawn as straight lines. (IIRC - I'm not a cartography expert.) The trade map is just using a projection with Britain at the center, which is logical for the purpose. The "two Australias" is a way of showing its relation to lands both to the east and west. And so on.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 15:43
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    @jamesqf Ah, but subtle propaganda is far more effective than over-the-top propaganda.
    – C Monsour
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 17:26
  • @jamesqf Some of your points taken, but I already conceded in the first paragraph that, for the examples, "none fully meet your criteria". The inclusion of Siam / Thailand could be a mistake, but could equally well be a deliberate distortion of the extent of the British empire. Also, as C Monsour says, "subtle propaganda is far more effective than over-the-top propaganda", and this point is also made by Monmonier. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 0:12
  • @C Monsour: But the problem is the assumption (by some) that it IS intended as propaganda. whether subtle of blatant, and not just as a good way to draw a map.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 1:50
  • GBooks links ending in .ph are blocked for me. Perhaps geo. Please review those links I touched whether they still work for you? Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 15:02

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