Visualization of 4000 Years of World Power History

Visualization of 4000 Years of World Power History
Visualization of 4000 Years of World Power History

Imagine that you are creating a timeline for the entire history of your country, starting from the moment it was founded. It wouldn't be an easy task, but imagine going a few steps further. Instead of a timeline for one country, how about creating a graphical timeline that shows the history of the entire world over 4,000 years, all without access to computers or the Internet?

Created back in 1931 by a man named John B. Sparks, this infographic depicts the ebb and flow of global power since 2000 BC on a single sequential timeline.

Histomap, published by Rand McNally in 1931, is an ambitious attempt to fit a mountain of historical information into a one and a half meter long poster. At the time, the poster was worth $ 1, which is about $ 18 when adjusted for inflation.

Although the distribution of power is not quantified on the x-axis, it provides a rare example of considering historical civilizations in relative terms. Although, for example, the Roman Empire occupies a lot of space during its Golden Age, we still get a decent idea of ​​what happened in other parts of the world during this period.

The visualization also effectively shows the rise and fall of various competing states, nations, and empires. Whether Sparks saw world history as a zero-sum exercise; a collection of nations fighting each other for control of a meager territory and resources.

Crowning a world leader at certain points in history is relatively easy, but distributing influence or power among everyone over 4,000 years requires some creativity and probably guesswork. Some argue that the lack of reliable data prevents such conclusions from being drawn.

Another obvious criticism is that the measures of influence are skewed in favor of the Western powers. The Chinese "channel", for example, is suspiciously thin throughout the entire timeline. Of course, creator bias and blind spots are becoming more evident in the information-rich 21st century.

John Spark's creation is an admirable attempt to make the story more accessible and engaging. Today we have seemingly limitless access to information, but in the 1930s, a comprehensive chronology of history would have been incredibly useful and innovative. Indeed, the map's publisher described it as a useful tool for exploring the relationship between different empires at different periods in history.

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