A Detail-Packed Mid-19th-Century Map of World Religious Belief

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
June 9 2014 2:53 PM

A Detail-Packed Mid-19th-Century Map of World Religious Belief

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This 1854 map of world religion appeared as part of an atlas published in Scotland by cartographer Alexander Keith Johnston. The map, a “Moral and Statistical Chart Showing the Geographical Distribution of Man According to Religious Belief,” presents religious geography from a Scotch Protestant perspective.

Historian of religion Lincoln Mullen, whose Twitter feed alerted me to this map’s existence, says that religious publications of the time often included figures tallying the relative prevalence of world religions, as a way of encouraging readers to fund and support mission efforts. On this map, the interior of South America, most of Africa, and most of North America are coded green for “pagan”—a signal to Protestants reading the map that these were fertile fields for potential missions.

Advertisement

Mullen points out that the map is “an intriguing combination of optimism and realism” when it comes to assessing the strength of Protestantism. He elaborated over email: “Mission stations in China, for example, are colored as Protestant, but most of Canada is regarded as ‘heathen.’ Places like Manchester, England, show a significant Catholic population”—a realistic reporting of the actual situation.

One the most interesting things about this map is the detail of its insets, some of which I’ve blown up and included below. Johnston packs his map with close-ups showing locations of British mission stations in South Africa, India, and Canada.  

On the bottom right-hand side of the map, Johnston includes a pointed graphic correlating levels of education in populations to religious belief. In his most-educated countries, the blue of Protestantism dominates. 

ReligionMap
"Moral and Statistical Chart Showing the Geographical Distribution of Man According to Religious Belief, With the Principal Protestant Mission Stations in the Middle of the 19th Century." By A. Keith Johnston, F.R.S.E.

David Rumsey Map Collection

IndiaDetail
Detail from"Moral and Statistical Chart Showing the Geographical Distribution of Man According to Religious Belief, With the Principal Protestant Mission Stations in the Middle of the 19th Century." By A. Keith Johnston, F.R.S.E.

David Rumsey Map Collection.

ReligionInEuropeDetail
Detail from"Moral and Statistical Chart Showing the Geographical Distribution of Man According to Religious Belief, With the Principal Protestant Mission Stations in the Middle of the 19th Century." By A. Keith Johnston, F.R.S.E.

David Rumsey Map Collection.

ProgressOfEducationDetail
Detail from"Moral and Statistical Chart Showing the Geographical Distribution of Man According to Religious Belief, With the Principal Protestant Mission Stations in the Middle of the 19th Century." By A. Keith Johnston, F.R.S.E.

David Rumsey Map Collection.

Click on the image below to reach a zoomable version, or visit the map's page on the David Rumsey Map Collection website. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. Now There’s Just One Thing Holding Us Back.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 7:23 PM MIT Researchers Are Using Smartphones to Interact With Other Screens
  Health & Science
Jurisprudence
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?