A 1927 full aerial view of the Shanghai area
Between 28 July and 17 August 1927, the British military in China surveyed the Shanghai area by plane and produced a systematic coverage of the Shanghai area through aerial photographs. This unique document is probably one of the earliest photographic records of Shanghai viewed from the sky. Two copies of the document exist at the Royal Geographical Society in London. It is made up of many photographs that were patiently cut and pasted together. Yet the document itself comes into 24 sheets that each cover different locations with a slight overlap. The RGS kindly authorized the digitizing of the 24 sheets that we subsequently stitched together with Photoshop. With very little distortion, the 24 sheets fit together almost perfectly. The reconstructed document (200 x 300 cm) can be found on Virtual Shanghai in the Source Maps section under ID727. As there was no related document, there is to no way to ascertain why the British military did this survey at the time. We may assume that since it was a period of heightened tension in China, with the Northern Expedition unfolding in Central China and challenges to foreign settlements, the British military made preparations for the defense of Shanghai. Marks and circles were added to the original view that may refer to locations with military significance. At this stage, however, this is a mere hypothesis.