1936 Diazio Road Map of Cochinchine, French Indochina

[Untitled map of Southern Vietnam / Cochinchine]. - Main View

1936 Diazio Road Map of Cochinchine, French Indochina


Routes of colonial control and resistance.


[Untitled map of Southern Vietnam / Cochinchine].
  1936 (undated)     25.5 x 40.75 in (64.77 x 103.505 cm)     1 : 500000


This is a very rare c. 1936 diazio or whiteprint map of roads in Cochinchine, French Indochina that was most likely made by the Service géographique de l'Indochine. It shows the rapidly developing road infrastructure of the colony, built in part to forestall anti-colonial sentiment among the local population. As a diazioprint, production of this map would have been severely limited, so likely no more than 10 - 15 examples were printed.
A Closer Look
This map is oriented towards the northwest, with the Mekong Delta at left-center and Saigon-Cholon at right-center. It depicts the entirety of Cochinchine, along with portions of neighboring Cambodia and Annam. Three sets of roads are highlighted – routes colonials, provincials, and locales. The routes colonials were the main arteries of French Indochina, meant to tie together major administrative centers and cross borders between the territories of the Indochinese Union. Shading is used to indicate whether projects were completed in 1934 or 1935 or were projected to be completed in 1936. The meaning of the numbers near the roads is unclear, but they may refer to allocations of piastres for individual projects.
French Cochinchina
French forces captured Saigon for Emperor Napoleon III in 1859 and the territory was formally ceded to France in 1862 by the Vietnamese Emperor Tự Đức. In the same year it was made capital of French Cochinchina, a large colony central to French colonial ambitions in Asia. In 1887, it became the capital of the greater Union of French Indochina (moved to Hanoi in 1902). The French lavished wealth on their new city. Saigon was transformed into a major port city and a metropolitan center, with beautiful villas, imposing public buildings, railroad infrastructure, and well-paved, tree-lined boulevards. By the late 19th century, Saigon was the principal port for rice and other goods from the Mekong Delta.

Unlike the other constituent parts of French Indochina, Cochinchine was a directly-ruled colony instead of a protectorate. This meant that the French presence was more pronounced there, including economic exploitation (through rubber plantations, above all) and policing. The anti-colonial movement was also particularly strong both in Saigon )where socialists and communists made inroads with workers) and in the countryside. Labor unrest, anti-colonial agitation, and a general uprising in 1916, in addition to unrest in other parts of French Indochina, led to a very tense political environment. The French responded by investing more in education, health, and public works in Indochine as a means of reducing public discontent. Especially after the election of the left-wing Popular Front in May 1936, the government tried to ameliorate the situation by reducing repression and further increasing social spending. In the end, these efforts were ineffective at stemming popular anger and another (unsuccessful) popular uprising broke out in November 1940, after the Fall of France, presaging France's reluctant recognition of Vietnamese independence in 1954.

In addition to roads, canals, and other infrastructure, 1936 saw the completion of a railway connecting Saigon and Hanoi (it was damaged in the wars of the mid-20th century but rebuilt after Saigon was captured by the Communists in 1975 and dubbed the 'reunification express'). The railway roughly follows the Route Coloniale No. 1 (also known as the 'Route Mandarine'), at right here. Many of the highways in Vietnam have retained the numeration from colonial times, with the Route Coloniale No. 1 now known as National Road A1 (Quốc lộ A1), Route Coloniale No. 13 as National Road 13 (Quốc lộ 13), and so on.
Diazo Print or Whiteprint
The diazo print (whiteprint or diazo for short) is a photo reproductive technique best understood as a reverse cyanotype or blueprint. The process yields distinctive blue lines on white paper. Like cyanotypes, the diazo process gained popularity in architecture circles, where it was a simple and effective way to duplicate documents in the field. The earliest diazotypes appeared around 1880 and were adopted for military and field cartographic use from about 1895. The diazo process was commercialized in 1923, when the German firm, Kalle and Company, developed Ozalid, a patented diazo paper that made diazotyping even easier. By the 1950s, it supplemented cyanotypes as the reprographic technique of choice for technical drawings.
Publication History and Census
This map contains no publication information, but must be from late 1935 or 1936. Most likely, it was made by the Service géographique de l'Indochine in Hanoi, though it could have also been produced by the Service des Travaux Publics. This map is not known to be held by any institution and is very scarce to the market. The Bibliothèque nationale de France does hold maps from earlier years titled 'Carte routière de la Cochinchine' and it is reasonable to suggest that this map would have been part of a regular annual or biannual series reviewing road construction in Cochinchine.


Service Géographique de l'Indochine (1899 - c. 1954) was created by decree on July 5, 1899. A Lieutenant Colonel Lubanski, from the Service Géographique de l'Armée, was put in charge. He along with several other army officers, as well as trained topographers and other geographers, immediately began applying the cutting-edge scientific practices employed by the Service Géographique de l'Armée in France to Indochina. They were tasked with creating detailed new maps of the colony. The Service Géographique immediately began mapping the Tonkin and Than-hoa deltas in extreme detail, and published annually a report on their progress. As for the rest of the country, which was sparsely populated and frequently inaccessible jungle, much less detailed maps were deemed sufficient. The Service Géographique also published an Atlas of Indochina annually from 1920 until at least 1932, as well as a summary of their work, which was published annually from 1900. Although the historical record is unclear, it is likely that the Service Géographique was disbanded during the Japanese occupation of Indochina during World War II and reconstituted after the Japanese defeat. During the 1950s the Service Géographique benefited from aerial photography. More by this mapmaker...


Very good.