TimeMaps: Atlas and Encylopedia of World History
The TimeMap of World History is a comprehensive atlas and encyclopedia of world history. It contains over 650 maps and 1,000 pages of supporting text. It is designed to be easy to navigate, through both time and space.
The TimeMap pays attention to the byways as well as the highways of history. It is structured to make the complex mesh of history accessible and comprehensible. It will continue to grow as we add more content.
We have been producing history education software for a combined total of over 70 years! Peter Britton (who claims 30 of these years – some of his colleagues might go as far to say he is a historic relic himself!) spearheads the team of history teachers, professional history writers, cartographers, copywriters, designers and digital media professionals.
Peter’s interest in history was sparked at an early age. Growing up in northern Nigeria meant that he spent a lot of his youth in Kano and other wonderful cities which hadn’t changed much since the Middle Ages. Making regular trips back and forth between modern, industrial London and these medieval cities felt like changing historical eras as well as places. He believes that it was the dramatic contrasts he encountered which built in him an abiding interest in history. As a youth he became fascinated by ancient civilizations, especially those of the Chinese, Indians and Romans, and of course African civilizations.
Before producing history software, Peter studied history at undergraduate and post-graduate level at Durham University, one of the leading academic institutions in the UK, where Peter is now a visiting fellow at St John’s College. After teaching history and being an educational librarian for some years, he founded Appian Way Software in 1988. This specialised in publishing history education resources for UK schools – which at the time meant there were beeps and load screens galore!
In 1999, with many successful titles under its belt, such as the Data 100 series, which gave students access to primary historical sources on a large range of topics, Appian Way merged with Actis Ltd – one of the largest educational publishing companies in the UK at the time. Peter became Actis’ CEO.
Leading such a company as Actis was a great experience, but it moved Peter far away from his first love, history. After 5 years, he left to move back into history publishing and in 2007 founded TimeMaps. This new direction was inspired by an awareness that maps and diagrams are a great way to learn about history.
In 2008, Jonny joined his father after graduating with an MA in Land Management from the University of Manchester. His love of maps and digital technologies put him in a great position to lead the technical role in the business. although he left working full-time for the company in 2016 to found his own company using his knowledge in land management, he is still very much involved in Timemaps as a director.
The “Time-Map” concept was originally conceived to offer a visual framework for history topics. A map combined with a timeline lets users see where an event is happening, both in time and space. If done properly, it gives them a panoramic view of change over time, and allows them to understand the significance of historical episodes much more clearly.
With this aim, the TimeMap of World History was created. It was designed to offer the full spectrum of human history, calling in on each civilization, nation and empire, and covering every major development in world history.
Originally we conceived that it would take world history a year at a time. However, there were already several resources that did just this – in particular, may I refer you to the work of Ollie Bye, which you can view here on YouTube? Also, we wanted to develop understanding of historical developments. This meant combining maps with information. The result is what you see in our TimeMap website.
A Note on Dates
You will notice that we now use the date notation BCE and CE rather than BC and AD. I am aware that this change will not be to everyone’s taste.
The traditional notation is specifically Christian in its meanings. BC stands for “Before Christ”, and AD stands for Anno Domini, or “In the Year of the Lord”. The new notation, on the other hand, is distinctly secular: BCE stands for “Before the Common Era”, while CE stands for “Common Era”.
The reason for the change to BCE and CE is that, soon after launching the TimeMaps website, we began receiving comments from US schools that they would love to use the site, except that they could not because the dates were BC and AD.
This, it has to be said, blindsided me at first. In Britain, the traditional BC and AD notation is still standard, and though I was certainly aware of the existence of BCE and CE, having read a lot of world history, I had no idea how widespread it had become in North America. Once launched, it immediately became clear that TimeMaps has much more traction in the US and Canada than here. So we took the decision to change over to the BCE/CE system.
Let me for a moment set aside my professional “balance” as a historian and talk about personal beliefs. I am a practicing and committed Christian. You may think, therefore, that I would have resisted making such a change. However, it is a core part of my beliefs that Christians should not force their beliefs on those of other faiths. If Christians like myself are to witness to our faith – as indeed we should – then it must be in a spirit of gentleness and care, deeply respectful of others.
I have often wondered what devout Muslims or Hindus must think when forced to use the traditional historical notations. For many of them it must have represented a form of Christian triumphalism.
The notations BCE and CE are at least free of religious connotations, though they do have their own issues. They carry with them a heavy pro-Western bias – almost a Western triumphalism, one might say – in that they assume that the “Common Era”, though rooted in Western historiography, is the prism through which all cultures must view their past.
However, the fact is that the whole world must now use a single dating system, and it so happens that this system is based on a Western-orientated notation. For the time being it has to stand.
In any case I don’t want to have to go to the effort and expense of changing all the dates again!