This fascinating map encompasses the traditional region of Thrace, which at the beginning of the 20th century contained the tense borderlands between the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, while Greece was not far distant. The map was made by the British Empire’s leading commercial cartographer Edward Stanford Ltd. as a special commission for the British Foreign Office, published on November 7, 1912, only a month into the First Balkan War, a conflict between the
Ottoman Empire and the ‘Balkan League’, an alliance of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro (supported by Russia and Italy). The Foreign Office commissioned the map to showcase the key theatre of the war near the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. The map was subsequently used by diplomats during the treaty negotiations that followed the conflict and the one that succeeded it, the Second Balkan War.
Importantly, the present example of the map features extensive manuscript additions concerning the revised boundaries between the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria and Greece following each of the conflicts. Indeed, these wars and the treaties that followed reordered the map of South-eastern Europe on the eve of World War I.
The map extends from ‘Constantinople’ and the Bosporus, in the southeast, up past ‘Philipoppolis’ (Plovdiv, Bulgaria), in the northwest, and from ‘Kavalla’ (Kavala, today in Greece), in the southwest up to ‘Bugaz’ (Burgas, Bulgaria), in the northeast. The sea of Marmara crosses the bottom of the map, while the Black Sea occupies the upper righthand side. The map is extremely detailed, showing every city, town and village; delineating all roads of various levels; as well as all railways (labelling the locations of every station), notable including the Rumelian Railway, running from Istanbul up through Plovdiv on an into the heart of Europe, that famously carried ‘The Orient Express’. Additionally, the map labels mountains, headlands, and the names of areas, as well as features such as the ‘Belgrade Forest’.
The Ottoman territory as it existed at the beginning of the First Balkan War is shaded in green, with the Ottoman-Bulgarian frontier heightened with extra shading. At the time, the Ottomans still controlled vast European realms extending from Istanbul along the northern coast of the Aegean and then up to include Macedonia, Albania and parts of Serbia.
Importantly, the map depicts and labels the Ottomans’ dense networks of forts that protected Edirne (Adrianople), and Istanbul, along the ‘Chatalja’ (Çatalca) Line and the Bosporus.
However, the most interesting feature of the present example of the map are the manuscript additions, clearly added by a diplomat privy to high-level negotiations at the Treaty of London (May 1913), the followed the First Balkan War and the treaties of Bucharest (August 1913) and Athens (September 1913), the followed the Second Balkan War. The additions concern the various revised boundaries between the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria and Greece, as well as highlighting some key strategic locations (Please see below for a detailed analysis of the manuscript additions).
The present map is very rare, which accords with the fact that it was made by Edward Stanford as a private commission for the British Foreign Office, and was never sold, or otherwise made available to the public. Indeed, Stanford had long fulfilled such important crown commissions, as well as making bespoke maps for a variety of private enterprises worldwide. We can trace only 3 institutional examples of the map, held by the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and the National Archives U.K.
The Storm before the Storm: The First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-3)
Since the mid-19th century, the Ottoman Empire was popularly known as the ‘Sick man of Europe’. While the country had actually done many impressive things to modernize its economy, military and society, it was still overwhelmed by rebellions and wars with its neighbours, resulting in massive territorial losses and financial crises.
During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8, an alliance of Russia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria throttled the Ottomans. Serbia and Montenegro gained their de facto independence; Bulgaria won its autonomy; while Russia conquered parts of the Caucuses and Eastern Anatolia. Most worryingly, the enemy forces had swept through virtually all of European Turkey to approach the outskirts of Istanbul at San Stefano. Only the last-minute diplomatic intervention of Britain (which was weary of Russia) prevented the conquest of the Ottoman capital.
Despite their losses, following the war the Ottomans still maintained large amounts of territory in Europe, extending from Istanbul over the north coast of the Aegean, all then all the way up into Macedonia, southwestern Serbia and Albania. However, the local peoples mounted constant insurgencies against the Sublime Porte’s authority, all the while encouraged by Russia and other foreign actors. By the early 1900s, the Ottomans were hanging on to their Balkan domains by the skin of their teeth.
During the Italo-Turkish War (September 29, 1911 to October 18, 1912), Italy took advantage of the political chaos that ensued in Istanbul in the wake of the Young Turk Revolution (1908) to conquered Ottoman Libya. While the Italians became bogged down in a guerrilla war waged by the local Senussi tribesmen, the Ottomans proved to be quite incapable of maintaining their last African domain from what was considered a second-rate power. Italy ended up gaining possession of both Libya and the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea.
While the Ottomans were preoccupied with the final throes of the Libyan conflict, the so-called ‘Balkan Alliance’ of Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria suddenly mounted an full on attack upon all Ottoman positions in Europe, in what would be known as the First Balkan War (October 8, 1912 – May 30, 1913). Supported by Russia and Italy, the alliance made short work of the Sultan’s men, surging over their lines and conquering tens of thousands of square kilometres of territory. Meanwhile, Albania mounted a successful rebellion, declaring its independence on November 28, 1912.
By mid-November, 1912, the Bulgarian army had taken virtually all of Eastern Thrace, and had rushed towards the ‘Çatalca Line’ (‘Chatalja’ on the map), a series of forts and trenches that crossed the isthmus to the west of Istanbul, acting as the capital’s last line of defence. There, the Ottomans mounted a spirited resistance, and the Bulgarians were unable to break the line during what became known as the First Battle of Çatalca (November 17-18, 1912) and the Second Battle of Çatalca (February 3- April 3, 1913).
Meanwhile, the one remaining major Ottoman stronghold in Europe beyond Çatalca was Edirne (Adrianople), a city that has special significance to the Turkish people, as it had served as the former capital of the Ottoman Empire (from 1369 to 1453). During the Siege of Edirne (November 3, 1912 – March 26, 1913), which is notable for being one of the first battles to use airplanes for bombing, the Ottomans bravely resisted Bulgarian attempts to storm the city, but were finally compelled to surrender, dealing a severe psychological blow to the Turkish people.
In May 1913, both sides came to a peace conference hosted by the Britain. For Whitehall, the First Balkan War posed something of conundrum. Britain was weary of Russia and its Slavic allies and had long resisted Russia gaining direct access to the Mediterranean Sea (Bulgaria was
considered to be a Russian client state), as that would threaten the Royal Navy’s dominant position in that sphere. At the same time, Britain, while still technically on friendly terms with the Sublime Porte, was alarmed by the Ottomans’ ever closer ties to its arch-rival, Germany. Ideally, Britain wanted to maintain a balance of power, by keeping the Ottoman Empire alive and strong enough to keep Russia and her allies in check, while preventing it from becoming strong enough (with German backing) for it pose a problem for Britain. This balancing act would prove impossible to maintain.
At the Treaty of London (May 30, 1913), the Ottomans had to agree to a humiliating peace, as they had been totally throttled by the Balkan Alliance. The Ottomans were to loose 83% of their European domains, with 69% of its European population. The new Ottoman boundary in Europe was to be the Enos-Midia Line, which ran from the mouth of the Maritsa River, on the Aegean, over to a point along the Black Sea that barely allowed the Ottomans to preserve the complete shorelines of the Sea of Marmara and only a very narrow defensive perimeter to the west of Istanbul. This settlement gave the Balkan Alliance almost all of what it wanted, while leaving the Sublime Porte in an untenable position.
Fortunately for the Ottomans, the Balkan Alliance soon crumbled. While the London Treaty set the Enos-Midia Line as the outer boundary of Ottoman Europe, it did not specific how the newly-conquered lands beyond were to be divided between the Balkan powers. As Greece and Serbia moved in to take the lion’s share of the spoils, Bulgaria felt cheated.
During the Second Balkan War (June 29, 1913 – August 10, 1913), Bulgaria allowed itself to be in conflict with all of its neighbours at once, including the Ottomans, Serbia, Greece and Romania (which opportunistically joined the conflict to gain territory from Bulgaria in the north). Bulgaria was, not surprisingly, defeated. The Ottomans regained Edirne; Greece took the key port of Kavala; Serbia conquered frontier regions of Macedonia held by Bulgaria; while Romania conquered the South Dobruja region.
The Ottomans, Serbs and Romanians signed the Treaty of Bucharest (August 19, 1913) with Bulgaria that certified their conquests. Greece signed a separate peace with Bulgaria that gave the former Kavala, at the Treaty of Athens (September 29, 1913).
However, the peace would not last long, as just over a year later the Balkans would be engulfed by World War I, a conflict that would cause the end of the Ottoman Empire, the birth of the Republic of Turkey, as well as opening a new chapter in the history of South-eastern Europe.
The Present Map’s Manuscript Additions in Focus
The present example of the map features extensive manuscript additions, executed in pink crayon, red ink and pencil that primarily concern the delineation of the new Ottoman, Bulgarian and Greek boundaries as they were variously revised following the First and Second Balkan Wars. While many of the details follow the lines as they were confirmed by the treaties that followed the conflicts, some of the lines chart provisional courses as discussed in secret negotiations pursuant to these treaties. The manuscript additions were almost certainly added by a senior (likely British) diplomat who was privy to the high-level deliberations. Stanford was commissioned to make the map by the Foreign Office with such purposes in mind, and it is important to note that the U.K. National Archives holds another example of the map with manuscript additions, previously used by the British Foreign Office, which is described in the Archive’s catalogue as “showing the Bulgaria-Greece boundary of 10 Aug 1913 and the Bulgaria-Turkey boundary of 18 Sept 1913” (although it seem that the dates for these boundaries should perhaps be inverted).
Specifically, the present example of the map shows the new boundary between the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan League territories as amended following the First Balkan War,as being the ruler-straight Enos-Midia Line, drawn clearly in pink crayon. This boundary was ordained by the Treaty of London (May 30, 1913), the deliberations of which were overseen by officials of the British Foreign Office.
Turning to the Second Balkan War, the map shows the proposed new Ottoman frontiers that return Edirne and much of Eastern Thrace to the Ottomans. Notably, while the line in the north, near the Black Sea, precisely follows that which would be agreed at the Treaty of Bucharest (August 19, 1913), the boundaries from Edirne south to the mouth of the Maritsa River is slightly different than that which would be agreed. This provisional line was discussed in camera before being amended further, suggesting that the creator of the manuscript additions had special high-level access to the proceedings in Bucharest.
Turning to Bulgarian-Greek affairs, the map shows the vicinity of ‘Kavalla’ (Kavala) cordoned in pink crayon, so highlighting the fact that this key port was seized by the Greeks army from Bulgaria (on June 26, 1913). Moreover, provisional boundary lines between Bulgaria and Greece are sketched in the interior. Importantly, while the Treaty of Athens (September 29, 1913) allowed Bulgaria to keep a good portion of it newly-won Aegean littoral, Kavala and the island of Thasos were given to Greece.
Additionally, the map highlights a few strategic locations, such as ‘Rodosto’ (Tekirdağ), ‘Serai’, ‘Seidler’, ‘Kastro Bay’ and ‘Malgara’ with manuscript compass circles.
References: National Archives U.K.: FO 925/21022; British Library: Cartographic Items Maps 43315.(103.) / OCLC: 557759689; National Library of Scotland: Map.l.9.46 / OCLC: 316561581.