Map Monday: understanding history through animated maps

More than once I’ve presented maps of empires throughout history as Map Monday offerings, in part to remind us all that things don’t stay the same. Empires (and nations) rise and empires (and nations) fall. It’s a reality that most of us don’t stop and consider often enough, because our worldview is constrained by our own experiences and our own timeframe. Our worldview is a snapshot in time. But history has many lessons to teach us, and one is that change is inevitable, especially if we do not pay attention to what’s changing around us.

The history of Europe is one case in point. Throughout the centuries – even millenia – centres of power and the well-being of citizens across that continent have waxed and waned. Wars have been fought over raw power, religion, culture, languages … you name it.  I think that’s why I personally consider the European Union, for all its shortcomings and challenges, to be one of the most noble of social experiments. All those languages, cultures, currencies, memories of wars fought put aside to try to make things work. That’s what we should all be trying to do. Nobody said it was easy, but the alternatives are worse.

Static maps of European history at one period of time don’t really give justice to the continual changes throughout its history. So let’s take a look at some animated maps that attempt to give a fuller picture. See if one style works better for you than another.

The first two are fairly similar in style, and of course are longer than just looking at a static map. So you may just want to check out one of the first two and then compare it/them with the third, which is quite different. Also, the second two animated maps are YouTube videos, so a short ad may pop up at the beginning. Don’t worry, it won’t last long!

And now for a very different approach to animating history; one might call it dancing bubbles of empire, although the proper name is Agario Style. Give it a look. The accompanying music is nice, too!

YouTube of a History of Europe – Agario Style Apparently the link can be flaky, so if it doesn’t work for you, just try again, or google “European history maps Agaria style”

Whichever style you prefer, I hope you agree that animation is an effective way to show that history has some powerful lessons for us all. One lesson is that things change, sometimes for the better, other times not so much so.

One aspect of European history that I watched for throughout these animations but didn’t make the cut, I guess, was the far reach of the Vikings over a long period of time. I guess there was so much else going on that they got lost in the shuffle. There were undoubtedly other stories that got subsumed in the larger tales as well. Just to remind everyone of the forays of the Vikings over centuries, including being the first Europeans to reach North America (which somehow gets missed most of the time, as does the fact that Columbus was never even in North America), I’m adding this one static map to round out our journey through European history. Just think about being in one of those Viking boats in the North Atlantic, not even knowing where you were headed!

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19 Responses to Map Monday: understanding history through animated maps

  1. iidorun says:

    I would have loved to have history presented to me in such a way. I learned about civilizations as if they were discrete linear happenings so it always confused that all of sudden (it seemed) they were gone or they appeared or “somehow” they got called something else. Thanks for sharing this perspective! It would really be awesome if they taught history in such a way.

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    Remarkable really how our technology can shine different lights on ancient history. I enjoyed watching France trying to beat everyone up, they’ve always been nuisances.

  3. Fascinating, Jane. These maps would make an awesome course in public schools. Maybe they already are, I don’t know.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      What an interesting thought, Debra. I hope some teachers think of these kinds of resources. It sure would have piqued my interest in history a lot earlier if I’d been exposed to such visual aids in school. Mind you, such things didn’t exist back then … the Dtine Ages! 😏

  4. So Rome wasn’t built in a day?

  5. Fascinating! And good point about those vikings, who weren’t exactly sweetness and light, that’s for sure. I, too, liked the bubble map. It was kind of hypnotic.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol, if you were to have asked the indigenous populations across North and South American, they would have said the same about the Spanish and British (as might the Acadians in the 18th century have said about the British). We shake our heads at what’s going on these days, and rightly so, but when we look at it that way, we HAVE made (baby) steps forward.

      Glad you liked the bubbly map. Very creative approach to conveying info.

  6. barryh says:

    I loved the bubble map!

  7. Absolutely fascinating!

  8. I’m so glad you talked about a worldview in the manner that you did, Jane. Most people are sadly constrained by the one they have, and sometimes it’s difficult to impart how not everyone lives in the same manner. Xenophobia is such a persistent enemy. Love the animated maps! Unfortunately the one that I looked most interesting — (History of Europe: 1000-2020) doesn’t open for US viewers. But no matter, I really enjoyed the others. – Marty

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