Friday, February 16, 2007

Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century

A professional colleague of mine was quite taken by a Shockwave-animation historical presentation of the Imperial History of the Middle East ("See 5000 years of history in 90-seconds"). She thought it would make a good opener for a class discussion in any number of commonly-taught courses, and I agree. The hosting site, Maps of War, has a number of other interesting animated maps. They are hardly perfect maps, and there are some dubious pieces of information presented, but I've long felt that historical maps are only starting points and their true virtue is provoking you to ask questions and even to correct the initial map. Some of you will get something out of this site.

If you want a real thought-provoking historical atlas on line, do not miss Matthew White's Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century. Mr. White states that he is no one in particular, with slim formal qualifications, but I consider him a benefactor of the human race. There are a lot of valuable information and sensible insights in this collection of maps and other data. Mr. White shows very good judgment on a number of issues. I was, for instance, amused and almost convinced by his argument that Thurgood Marshall was more important than Martin Luther King, Jr. And when he says "Let's face it, two hundred years from now, no one will bother to differentiate between our World Wars," I know he's right because I've had students in Islamic Civilization final exams who under the pressure of time found it difficult to distinguish them.

If you have a serious interest in comparative modern history click right over and see what a well-read and imaginative amateur can do.

The image: I found it difficult to find an image of the mythical giant Atlas using Google Images, until I ran across this one at Also worth a visit.


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