History of the World Map by Map
This book tells the story of life on Earth in more meticulous detail and with more arresting pictures than I’ve ever seen before. I believe that in this digital age, maps are more important than ever. People are losing sight of the need for them in a world where our knowledge is reduced to the distance between two zip codes. For me, a journey—certainly the contemplation of a journey—is a voyage across a map. But this beautiful book offers the added dimension of a state-of-the-art journey through time. These maps display the story of the world in delightfully accessible form. They demonstrate in a spectacular way how there is no substitute for the printed page, for the entrancing spread of color across paper that we can touch and feel. The maps are large; the colors are bold. Text boxes spring out from places whose history matters. Clear and easily readable graphics reveal the ups and downs of empires, cultures, wars and other events both human and natural that have shaped our world from the beginning.
To me, history without maps would be unintelligible. A country’s history is shaped by its geography—by its mountains and valleys, its rivers, its climate, its access to the sea, and its raw materials and harvests just as much as it is shaped by its population, its industry, its relations with its neighbors and its takeover by invaders from abroad. This book is more than a historical atlas: it describes the geography of history but adds revealing pictures as well. For me, the history of World War I is admirably summed up by the map that describes the buildup to it on pages 268–269 and the following maps and accounts of the fighting, including the telling picture of the trenches.
I’ve been using maps to tell stories all my life as a television journalist and historian. The stories of the European Union and the collapse of communism were my constant companions when recounting the events of the last half century. That part of recent history only makes sense if it is also described by maps like those on pages 320–321 and 336–337. I have spent many hours as a journalist making maps with graphics artists at the BBC and ITN to illustrate the story of wars in the Middle East and Vietnam. Far better ones are now displayed for us in this book on pages 328–29 and 332–33. No historian can do justice to the story of the rise and fall of the great empires like that of the French Emperor Napoleon without maps like those on pages 208–211.
For its depth of learning and its variety of ways of giving us a picture of the history of our planet, this magnificent account—map by map—is second to none.
PETER SNOW British broadcaster and historian
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