Monday, September 27, 2010

Representing Empires (to Students)

Heather Cox Richardson

This simple graphic depiction of France, England, Portugal, and Spain from 1800 to the present strikes
me as a useful way to start a class on modern world history. It could also work in a class on colonial or modern American history—less so for a nineteenth-century course on the U.S.

The growth and conflicts and jockeying of the dots are interesting enough, but when the video gets to the 1960s, the explosion is so dramatic any student can see just what a world watershed the mid-twentieth century was.

For a single country, see also this animated history of Poland. HT to Ralph Luker at HNN


Jonathan Dresner said...

Well, you could spend a lot of class time explaining what's wrong with that visualization as a representation of history, though it might be moderately useful as a representation of the imperial mindset. The liberation of Africa bit, though, is pretty dramatic, might be useable without too much hemming and hedging.

Steve said...

As a student I would excited for a way to simplify presentation. But this website does it better because you see the world.

The dots video is like watching paint dry while moving. Although I imagine if you are high it would be most illuminating.

Randall said...

I don't know if I agree that its a "bore." We use charts and graphs all the time in history and don't rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, like a new hit single.

Steve said...

Perhaps if it was 10 on an excitement scale, more people would be inclined to study history.

While the role of the historian is to carefully study the past,I beleive a more important role for historians to fulfill, is to educate those who do not understand or are unfamiliar with the past. Historians should do this in the most effective and exciting way that they can, in a way that will attract the most attention.