Visualizing Colonial Police Deaths & Casualties in 19th-Century Burma

In a 7 May 1900 issue of The Rangoon Gazette (pg. 10) I came across a “List of Civil Police Officers killed, wounded or died from 1886-1898.” The information that is provided consists of the following: battalion, name, date of death or casualty, nature of death or casualty.

excel image

I input that information into an Excel spreadsheet, and then looked up the latitude and longitude for the places where the battalions were based. For places like “Lower Chindwin” I used Monywa, as that was the administrative center at the time. In the case of Shwegyin, I used this one, but there is more than one Shwegyin, so I’m not sure if this is correct.

After inputting that information, and cleaning up some mistakes in the text from The Rangoon Gazette, I tried to map out and visualize this information.

There are various programs that you can use to visualize data. All you have to do is to save the Excel file as a csv (comma separated value) file and then you just drag and drop the file into a visualization program.

Google map

I created the above map by doing this with Google Maps Engine. One problem that I encountered is that when you have more than one entry for one geographic place, the map just shows one entry and then ignores the rest.

If you click on the “data” icon, you can see that information, but it doesn’t all get represented on the map.

Gephi 1

I then used Gephi to make these visualizations.

Gephi 2

I just used the information about battalion names and years, because the visualization I got when I input all the information was too confusing. I also had to combine place names like “Lower Chindwin” as “LowerChindwin” as Gephi used the words “Lower” and “Chindwin” as separate pieces of data.

In the end, this visualization looks cool, but I don’t find it to be all that helpful.


So I then used RAW and got the above visualization for battalions and years of deaths or casualties. This one is a little bit clearer, but still kind of difficult to see.


Ultimately I found that the clearest things to visualize were single items, like years when people were killed or wounded.


The battalions they belonged to.


And what happened to them. Here “died” means that the person simply died while in the service of the police, and not in some kind of active police mission.

Trying to visualize data is fun, but it is definitely a challenge to create visualizations that actually show someone something significant. I would say that the above visualizations all pretty much “fail” to do that, but you do learn things in trying to make visualizations.

If anyone wants to play around with this data, I’m attaching the Excel file here.


Postscript: I just made the above map in OpenHeatMap. I think that one was more successful.

Colonial Police Deaths & Casualties in Burma


Using RAW to Create Visualizations for Southeast Asian History

There is a new tool that has just been released called RAW which allows users to easily create visualizations from information in a spreadsheet.

I decided to visualize some information from a US State Department report from October 1945 about nationalists in Vietnam. To do this, I created a simple Excel spreadsheet with the names of people and their political affiliations.


I pasted it into RAW.


Then I chose a layout and how I wanted to map it.


And I got my visualization.