The Histomap: 4000 years of World History
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Friday October 25, 2013

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The Histomap: 4000 years of World History

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Relative power of contemporary states, nations, and empires

What if you could capture the entire history of recorded human existence into one epic infographic for the ages? Crazy, right? Back in the 1930s, a man named John B. Sparks tried—and The Vault recently dug up his attempt. It's called the Histomap, and it's still incredible nearly 100 years later, if just slightly out of date.

Initially published by Rand McNally in 1931, the Histomap took the form of a five-foot-long poster folded down into a relatively normal-sized envelope and sold for a dollar, or $12.40 in today's money. The Histomap featured endorsements from historians and reviewers. The chart was advertised as “clear, vivid, and shorn of elaboration,” while at the same time capable of “holding you enthralled” by presenting:

the actual picture of the march of civilization, from the mud huts of the ancients thru the monarchistic glamour of the middle ages to the living panorama of life in present day America.

Clear, vivid and shorn of elaboration HISTOMAP holds you enthralled as you follow the curves of power down time's endless course.....HERE IS THE ACTUAL PICTURE OF THE MARCH OF CIVILIZATION from the mud huts of the ancients to the monarchistic of the middle ages to the living panorama of life in everyday America.

The clearly labeled vertical axis shows the steady march of time, but the horizontal axis' display of power is less cut and dried. And while we're at it, the very 1930's characterization of different racial and cultural groups comes off as a little...dated.

But caveats aside, the careful visualization of 4,000 years of human history is still damned impressive to behold. Maybe even moreso because it manages to capture a snapshot of the 1930s as well.

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