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  • Writer's pictureMashrur Rahman

Translating text into space for mapping the past territory of a city: Mughal Dhaka

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

City, Territory and Architecture, volume 3, Article number: 7

Mashrur Rahman, Kawser Bin Zaman & Roxana Hafiz


There is no established methodology for mapping the past territory of cities from text based historic information. Past territories of cities often remain obscure due to lack of spatial representation. This article proposes a GIS based methodology to study the spatial development of cities in early times. It builds on ‘historical geography’ as an interdisciplinary field bridging the divide between history and geography. Analyzing different ‘named places’ mentioned in the historical sources this study develops a solid understanding about the physical development of Dhaka during Mughal period, which was then the capital of Bengal. Later it georeferenced those named places and applied GIS based techniques to map the past urban territory. The result shows the spatial development of Dhaka in Mughal period and how it had undergone changes in pre and post Mughal era. The area of Dhaka in Mughal period is quantified 12.93 km2 which is comparable with any other top cities of the world in the 17th century. Application of GIS also extends the scope of the study to explain spatial pattern of the localities and the geological aspects of early urban development of Dhaka. Analyzing different historic sources of information (both texts and maps), this study defines the past extent of Mughal Dhaka. The methodological prospects of this study and its application is not only limited to the context of Dhaka, but also for other historic cities.

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