Diu is a small, low-lying island (11 km long and 3 km wide), located off the southern tip of Gujarat’s Kathiawar Peninsula. Despite is diminutive size, it has played an outsized role in the modern history of India. Up to the 16th century, Diu was (along with Surat) one of the two major entrepôts for the Indian spice export trade to Europe, of which the Ottoman Empire had a near monopoly. Diu was ideally placed to guard the main shipping routes for spices and valuable cargo from India up to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.
The Portuguese recognized Diu’s importance shortly after their arrival on the subcontinent in 1498. From 1509 to 1531, they made four large-scale but unsuccessful attempts to conquer the island from the Sultanate of Gujarat.
In 1535, the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, made a fateful decision. He offered to go into alliance with the Portugal against their mutual enemy, the Mughal Emperor Humayun. As an incentive, Bahadur gifted Diu to Portugal.
The Portuguese immediately set about heavily fortifying Diu and used it to bust-up the Ottoman monopoly on the spice trade to Europe, while showing little interest in assisting Gujarat with its military objectives.
Naturally, the Gujaratis and the Ottomans found the Portuguese moves to be unacceptable, and even a mortal threat to their economic futures. In 1537, Gujarat turned on Portugal, soon to be joined by the Ottomans, in a conflict that dovetailed into the Ottoman-Portuguese Wars (1538-59). From Egypt, the Ottomans sent a force of 40,000 men, in 80 ships, to assist the Gujaratis, representing the largest ever Ottoman intervention in South Asia.
During the Siege of Diu (August-November 1538), a Gujarati-Ottoman force of 24,000 men attempted overcome the Diu garrison of only 600 troops. However, after a four-month-long struggle, the Portuguese prevailed, securing control of Diu for the next four centuries. This was hailed as one of the greatest victories in Portuguese history, commemorated in countless artworks and books for generations.
While Portugal was the dominant colonial power in India during the 16th and early 17th centuries, by the 1640s they had lost that status (and most of their Indian outposts) to the Dutch East India Company, while in 1660 they gifted Bombay to England as the dowry for Catherine of Braganza’s marriage to Charles II. Portugal was then left with Goa, Diu, Daman and Dadra and Nagar Haveli as their only colonial beachheads in India.
For some time, Diu remained a vibrant nexus for maritime trade and well as a centre of fishing. It was also a critical nexus between European and Indian cultures, being a major base of Christianity on the Subcontinent.
However, by the 19th century, Diu became a relatively sleepy place, an economic shadow of its former self, as trade in the region now flowed through British-controlled ports such as Bombay. Relying mainly upon fishing and subsistence agriculture, Diu became something of a financial burden to the Portuguese crown. This situation mirrored that in the other districts of what the Portuguese called the Estado da India (within which Diu was a district, subordinate to the state’s capital, Goa). As such, the Portuguese authorities embarked upon a series of bold initiatives to reenergize the Portuguese Indian economy through infrastructure development and improved agrarian and industrial techniques. However, in Diu, these plans were hindered by the lack of accurate mapping of the island. While engineer’s plans of the fortifications of Diu and some decent maps of Diu town had been accomplished, by the dawn of the 20th century it remained that no general scientific surveys of the island had ever been initiated
Enter José Norton de Matos and the First Scientific Mapping of Diu
José Maria Mendes Ribeiro Norton de Matos (1867 – 1955) was one of the most important and highly respected Portuguese colonial administrators and diplomats of the first half of the 20th century, who ended his career as a leading liberal voice against his country’s right-wing dictatorship. However, before he gained fame, he served for many years as a military engineer in Portuguese India.
Norton de Matos was born in Ponte de Lima, just outside of the port city of Viana do Castelo, a great nexus of colonial trade, in far northern Portugal. Of partial English stock, his father was Tomás Mendes Norton, a successful merchant, and the British Consul in Viana, while his mother hailed from an esteemed local family.
A gifted mathematician, Norton de Matos graduated from the Escola Académica in Lisbon in 1880 and was soon appointed as a professor of Mathematics at the prestigious University of Coimbra. However, he eventually grew bored of academic life, and in his late 20s enrolled in military academy, where he trained an engineer.
In 1898, Norton de Matos was sent to India to help devise plans to re-energize the economy of the Estado da India. One of the priorities was conduct precise, systematic trigonometric surveys of the parts of the Estado that has not been mapped to that degree, of which Diu was the priority. As a leading member of the Serviço de Agrimentura do Estado da India, he spent ten years mapping various parts of the Estado to exact precision. The resulting maps were intended to show land use, infrastructure, as well as political and cadastral divisions, information that would allow government planners to devise ways to redevelop the land to make it more productive. Norton de Matos employed innovative techniques suited for surveying in India, which he explained in a guidebook, Manual do Agrimensor (Nova-Goa, 1904).
In Diu, Norton de Matos constructed an exact trigonometric framework for the entire island, anchored upon basepoints, with their locations ascertained by astronomical observations, with the central basepoint at Dangarvadi. Between these points he constructed triangles that defined the precise shape of Diu. Norton de Matos then proceeded to carefully map the islands castral lots and major features, to scales of either 1:1,000 or 1:5,000, that could be seamlessly fitted into the trigonometric framework, eventually creating an exact and complete record of all of Diu.
Norton de Matos returned to Portugal in 1908 with his finished manuscript of Diu which he submitted the Commissão de Cartographia, in Lisbon, Portugal’s official colonial mapping agency. There, the master engraver Diniz Miranda (1858 – 1943) prepared it for publication, with the map being issued in 1911.
The Present Map in Focus
This excellent, detailed, large format work is the first printing of the first scientific map of Diu. It embraces the entire island to a scale of 1:20,000. The old fort of Diu, the Castello, on the far eastern tip of the island, is shown surrounded by a moat, while the town of Diu, the Praça, occupies the walled-in area to the west. The outlines of all major buildings are depicted, including the magnificent cathedral, the Igreja de São Paulo (completed 1610).
The rest of the island is composed of small farm plots and named aldeias (villages) that hug the arterial road the ran across the length of the island, with the coastlines featuring marshland, white sand beaches and amazing caves.
In addition to Diu Island, the district included the small adjacent peninsula of Gogolá, on the Gujarati mainland, plus, as showcased within the inset, ‘Simbor do districto de Diu’, in the upper right corner, the tiny (0.91 km sq) exclave of Simbor, located 25 km east along the coast. Straddling the mouth of the Rio Vançoso (or Sahil River), Simbor was home the once-formidable Forte de Santo António de Simbor, but by this time hosted only a few itinerant fishing camps.
The note in the bottom margin explains the technical origin of the map, reading: ‘Redução da carta cadastral levantada nas escalas de 1/1000 e 1/5000 pelos Serviços de Agrimesura do Estado da India, sob a direcção do capitão do Estado Maior, José Mendes Ribeiro Norton de Mattos’ (‘Reduction of the cadastral chart drawn up on scales of 1/1000 and 1/5000 by the Surveying Services of the Estado da India, under the direction of the Captain of the General Staff, José Mendes Ribeiro Norton de Mattos’).
The note below the title explains the principal trigonometric basepoint of Norton de Matos’s construction of the map, reading: ‘Observações: As coordenadas retangulares são dadas em metros na grade referente ao sinal trigonométrico Dangarvadi de 1ª ordem cujas coordenadas geográficas são: Latitude N. 20° 43’ 0,”53 / Longitude E. Gr. 70° 58’30;09’ (‘Notes: The rectangular coordinates are given in metres in the grid referring to the 1st order Dangarvadi trigonometric basepoint whose geographic coordinates are: Latitude N. 20° 43’ 0,”53 / Longitude E. Gr. 70° 58’30;09’).
The various symbols that appear throughout the map detail land use and key topographical features, as explained in the ‘Convenções’ (Conventions / signs), lower left, and include those for anchorages, sand dunes or banks, cashew tree groves, roads, paths, houses, mud huts, cemeteries, boundaries of villages, boundaries of (agrarian) cadastral lots, territorial boundaries, escarpments, urbans streets, swamps, border markers, walls, pagodas, palm groves, quarries, pits, trigonometric surveying basepoints, rocks, hedges, cultivated fields, paved areas, and walled-off compounds.
Norton de Matos’s map acted as the masterplan, or blueprint, for managing Diu’s economic development for many years. While Portugal never succeeded in returning Diu to being a major trading hub, they did improve infrastructure, social services, and agrarian and food processing techniques, such that the island’s economy became more buoyant.
Portugal would rule Diu until India mounted a military invasion of all Portuguese India, called Operation Vijay (December 17-19, 1961), during which the island and all the other districts of the Estado da India were captured and formally annexed to India. From 1962 to 1987, Diu was part of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman, and Diu. When Goa gained statehood in 1987, Diu remained a part of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
As for Norton de Matos, following his years based in India, during which he completed vital diplomatic assignments to Macau and China, he was recognized as one of Portugal’s most brilliant administrators and envoys. He was appointed to become the Governor-General of Angola (1912-5), during which he is credited for overseeing the successful defense of the colony in the face of German invasion (October 1914 – July 1915) in the early days of World War I. He then served as Portugal’s Minister of War (1915-7), whereupon he planned Portugal’s deployment along the Western Front. He subsequently served as Portugal’s chief delegate to the Versailles Peace Conference (1919-20) and retuned as Governor-General of Angola (1921-3) to enact vital reforms.
Norton de Matos was a patriot, and a liberal, who strongly opposed Portugal’s right-wing ‘Estado Novo’ dictatorship (1926-74), which was led most of the time by António de Oliveira Salazar. He condemned the regime’s curtailment of civil liberties at home and its Apartheid-like policies in the colonies. He published a book, Africa Nossa (1953), where he outlined a more liberal African policy that, while encouraging mass white migration to the colonies, opened the door to the eventual integration Black Africans to Portuguese society, then a daring concept.
At the age of 81, he stood as the National Council of the Movement of National Antifascist Unity’s candidate in the 1949 Portuguese presidential elections, but this poll was rigged, so he never had any chance of winning. While Salazar had a habit of ‘silencing’ or exiling his major opponents, Norton de Matos was an ‘inconvenient’ foe, as he was national hero and could not be touched.
A Note on Rarity
The map is very rare, it was seemingly made in only a small print run for administrative use, while the survival rate of such a large and fragile separately issued maps is very low.
We can locate 7 institutional examples of the map, held by the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal; Staatsbibliothek Berlin; Bibliothèque nationale de France; Biblioteca do Ministério da Economia; Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino; Universidade do Porto; and the United Nations Library & Archives Geneva. Moreover, we cannot trace any sales records for any other examples.
References: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal: C.C. 29 R.; Biblioteca do Ministério da Economia: 163516; Staatsbibliothek Berlin: Kart. E 5426; Bibliothèque nationale de France: GE SH 19 PF 1 QUATER DIV 20 P 7, 1911; United Nations Library & Archives Geneva: LON-G7653.D35F1 1911 .D57; OCLC: 1043734784, 1177081520; Avelino TEIXEIRA MOTA, Cartas antigas da India existentes em Portugal (séculos XVIII, XIX e XX) (Coimbra, 1980), no. 221 (p. 99).