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Check Out What Malaysia Looked Like Over 200 Years Ago With This Historical Map

Check Out What Malaysia Looked Like Over 200 Years Ago With This Historical Map

Did you know that Kelantan was once spelled ‘Calantan’?

Kirat Kaur

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Can you imagine the world in 1787?

The British Empire ruled supreme, Australia was just being established as a penal colony and giant hats were considered the height of fashion.

While we may never be able to see that world for ourselves, this map by American Map Collector David Rumsey gives you a small peek into the old world.

The David Rumsey Map Collection overlays historical maps over modern-day satellite images by Google Maps and Google Earth.

(Credit: David Rumsey Map Collection & Google Earth)

So we spent a couple of hours digitally cosplaying as Marco Polo, exploring Malaysia in 1787 and comparing it to the maps of today and here are some hidden treasures that we’ve discovered:

Penang Island was once known as Prince of Wales’s Island

While this may not be news to most of you, it’s still pretty cool to see it on a map in comparison with modern-day Penang.

(Credit: Credit: David Rumsey Map Collection)

National borders were more of a ‘suggestion’

The border between the Malaya Peninsula and the Kingdom of Siam was just a dotted line cut straight across.

(Credit: David Rumsey Map Collection)

Meanwhile, Borneo was just a free-for-all, with no separation between the areas now known as Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan.

(Credit: David Rumsey Map Collection)

Names in 1787 were… interesting

  • Pulau = Pulo
  • Johor = Jo’hr
  • Malacca = Malack
  • Kelantan = Calantan

And Borneo was full of unusual names that seem to have disappeared from modern maps.

(Credit: David Rumsey Map Collection)

BONUS: Phuket and the surrounding islands may have been called Junkfelon Town & Islands

(Credit: David Rumsey Map Collection)

It’s actually really fun navigating the world through this tool. Try it for yourself (HERE) and see what hidden treasures you can find!


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