The study of colonial surveying and cartography has become key to understanding the history of European colonialism because of the recognition that land surveys and maps not only represent territory but form part of the process through which territory comes into being. While many studies have therefore focused on the history of instrumental surveying and cartography in New Spain, roughly equivalent to present-day Mexico, between the seventeenth and twentieth century, the textual surveys of the sixteenth century that helped to bring the initial colonial territory into being have gone largely unstudied. Content analysis of textual land surveys included in sixteenth-century viceregal land grants for sheep and cattle ranches demonstrates variation in references to distance, direction, and borders that begins to reveal a process of negotiation among local actors and centralized state power that was contingent on environmental, economic, and demographic differences between highland and lowland landscapes.
Sluyter, Andrew and Hunter, Richard, "How incipient colonies create territory: The textual surveys of New Spain, 1520s–1620s" (2011). Faculty Publications. 22.
Journal of Historical Geography