French & Indian War map by Palairet, ca. 1755


Jean Palairet after John Mitchell.  “Carte des Possessions Angloises & Francoises du Continent de l’Amerique Septentrionale.  1755.”  From Nouvelle Introduction a la Geographie Moderne.  London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and The Hague, ca. 1755.  Third state?  16 3/8 x 22 3/4.  Engraving by Thomas Kitchin.  Full original hand color.  Full and generous margins.  Light stain in lower left corner.  Very good condition.  McCorkle: 755.22; Phillips: 3502.


A dramatic cartographic depiction of the theater of the Seven Years War in North America, commonly called the French & Indian War.  The persisting strife in Europe between the nations of England, France and Spain from the middle of the seventeenth century into the eighteenth century was mirrored by equally persistent conflict in North America between the colonies of these powers.  The Spanish controlled the Florida peninsula and had interest in extending their influence to the north.  The French controlled a riparian colony which was formed around the trade nexus of the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River.  The French wanted to control all the lands adjacent to these waterways, including the Ohio River Valley, and lands to the south and east of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.  The British colonies were originally established along the bays and rivers of the Atlantic seaboard, but as their population expanded there was an inevitable push to expand settlement to the north, to the west-into the trans-Appalachian region, and to the south.  All of these pressures perforce led to a series of so-called wars in North America, including King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, the War of Jenkins’ Ear, and King George’s War.  The culmination of these conflicts was the French & Indian War, which lasted from 1755 to 1763, and which ended in the British controlling almost the entire North America east of the Mississippi River.  This map, issued just at the beginning of this war, was expressly designed to exhibit the political situation which generated the warfare and to provide a geographic depiction of the arena of conflict.

The cartographic rendering of this map is based on John Mitchell’s seminal 1755 map of North America.  Mitchell, who was born in Virginia and who emigrated to England in 1746, became very concerned with what he saw to be French encroachments on British lands.  His map, commissioned by the Earl of Halifax, the president of the Board of Trade and Plantations, was an emphatic statement of British claims in North America, a propagandistic document asserting British control of most of the continent.

Irrespective of its political content, the Mitchell map was universally accepted as the best depiction of North America and continued to be so considered through to the end of the century.  This map is a very closely reduced version of Mitchell’s rendering, and indeed is engraved by the same man who produced the original map, Thomas Kitchin.  This map was also issued the same year as the Mitchell map, and so likewise would have represented the most up-to-date cartographic picture of North America available during the French & Indian War.

The fundamental issue of conflict in the war is graphically highlighted, as described by Palairet in the accompanying test:

“The method in which I have coloured it, will easily discover the English and French Possessions, as well the countries that are now the subject of contest between those two nations, as the forts which the French have built, or taken in the midst of the English Colonies, and in the countries claimed by the English.”

With that intent, the “English Possessions” are shaded yellow, “French Possessions” shaded green, and “Countries in dispute inhabited by Indian Natives allied, or subject to the Crown of England” are shaded red.  This last area of red extends from the northern tip of Nova Scotia to Pensacola, and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, encompassing Nova Scotia, the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, and the Cherokee lands.  It is this region which was the territory over which the war was fought.  Of further interest are the indications, circled in red, of “Forts built by the French, or taken from the English.”  These encompass all the forts which figured in the battles of the nascent conflict, including Forts Duquesne, Niagara, Crown Point, and Oswego.

The exact publishing history of this map has not been definitely fixed, but this example appears to be the third state, before the inclusion of Palairet’s name, which was issued within a few years of the beginning of the war.  It was issued in John Palairet’s Nouvelle Introduction a la Geographie Moderne, and the map also appeared in his Atlas Methodique, as well as issued separately with an accompanying text.   In all its vehicles of issuance, the map was an international publication.  It appeared in England, the Netherlands, and Germany, with text in English and French, though the title is only in French.  This reflects the European interest in and relevance of the French & Indian War, which indeed was merely one phase of the Seven Years War.  With its visual impact and historic immediacy, this map is the French & Indian War pictorially presented in its essence.