On This Day: 1 December 1682

Other that for a six weeks spent on a tour of Holland and Flanders, Captain Thomas Bowrey did not keep a diary. For that reason, for much of his life it is impossible to know with any certainty where he was on a specific day. However, today in 1682, Thomas Bowrey was at Fort St George, the East India Company factory in what is now Chennai. It was here he arrived as a 10 year old child thirteen years earlier.

We know that he was there on this date because he wrote it on a chart he copied. The chart is one of twelve maps or charts drawn by Bowrey and held by the British Museum, all probably copied from those drawn up by others. Because Bowrey drew a chart of an area is no proof that he had visited that area. Today’s chart is of the coast of Tenasserim in Burma or Myanmar. There is no record of him ever having been there.

Bowrey collected information about many areas of the world he had never travelled to himself. This has resulted in confusion at times. A timeline for his life, built slowly from the small clues available such as today’s map, proves that he never had the opportunity to sail to the Americas. This did not stop him from claiming knowledge of the coastal regions. It was simply second-hand knowledge.

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