We have just upgraded the world map page for 1871, by adding a chunk of information to go with the map.
As those of you who have read the information pieces which we’re adding to the world maps will know, they are brief round-ups of global history for the period from one world map to the next. So, for example, the 1871 map page information covers the period 1837 to 1871; while the 1837 map page covers the period 1789 to 1837, and so on.
I think they are an important element within our TimeMap of World History because they bring what’s happening in the different parts of the world together, and tease out unifying themes. This is much easier to do for the pages relating to more modern dates, with the rise of a global civilization (the West) and the way it has impacted on the different regions of the world. This process can first be seen properly in the 1648 world map, and more clearly in the 1789 map. However, it is with the 1837 one that I first felt able to start talking about “The West” as an identifiable entity (though contemporaries would not have called it that, or anything, in fact. Europeans and Americans thought of themselves as the only people who mattered, and for others, Westerners were simply those big, badly-behaved ghost-like barbarians).
Before 1648, although each region kept more or less to itself (with some flagrant exceptions, as with the Mongols), there were developments which influenced a wide part of the world. The most notable examples are the opening of the Silk Road across Central Asia, and of maritime trade routes across the Indian Ocean (both of which can be read about in the world map information for 30 BC). Other aspects are the spread of technologies – as can be inferred, at least, from the invention of the compass, gunpowder and printing (which are mentioned in the information for the 1215 map); the spread of religions (for example, of Buddhism from South to East Asia, which is mentioned in the AD 200 map), and in migrations (the Indo-European diaspora appears in the info for the maps 2500 BC, 1500 BC and 1000 BC, as does the even more widespread migration of ancestors of the Malays and Polynesians, which reaches its furthest extent when, in AD 750, a group from SE Asia reach the island of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa).
Back to the page in hand. In 1871, the whole world is experiencing different aspects of the same process – the expansion of Western civilization. No part of the globe is exempt from this development – and the next map (1914) will show it going further. Much further.
By Peter Britton