World History Blog

A wonderful attempt at a visual overview of world history

March 2, 2015 Posted by Peter Britton A wonderful attempt at a visual overview of world history

A blog I recently read showed a timeline of world history called The Histomap. It was a truly wonderful, complex timeline; I think you should look at it (the blog entry shows it in full).

One interesting thing for me was that it was produced in the early 1930s. So, the subtitle, “Relative power of contemporary states, nations and empires” becomes an interesting historiographical statement in its own right.

Of course, it presents an easy target to us for its pro-western stance. The late 18th century shows the Qing empire as no more powerful than, say, France; a brief glance at a map of the world of that era shows that this is a gross distortion. But if we adopt this lofty attitude then we ourselves fall into the trap of not thinking in a properly historical way: we apply anachronistic judgements to the past. In an exhibition of historical cartography a few years ago I saw a Qing or Ming dynasty wooden globe, a true work of art, which showed the bulk of the planet taken up by the Chinese empire.

It starts in 2000 BC, which is slightly odd; I wondered whether this was to do with trying to fit in with the Archbishop Usher view of creation, which has it staring in 4004 BC and the flood about 3000 BC; and there are numerous selections of events which I find odd (for example, the Holy Roman Emperor planning to attack Byzantium, an invasion which never actually took place). But it is a fascinating and impressive piece of work, and must have taken many agonising hours to put together.

By Peter Britton

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