The 1931 Histomap: The entire history of the world distilled into a single map/chart.

The 1931 Histomap: The entire history of the world distilled into a single map/chart..

And, while we are on maps today, how about this “Histomap” – a mapped timeline of all of human history. This is actually an old map (first published by Rand-McNally in 1931), but Slate has brought it back to life via the Internet. Have fun with this one! Here’s the introduction to it; the link above will take you to the site where you can view this unique map.

This “Histomap,” created by John B. Sparks, was first printed by Rand McNally in 1931. (The David Rumsey Map Collection hosts a fully zoomable version here.) (Update: Click on the image below to arrive at a bigger version.)

This giant, ambitious chart fit neatly with a trend in nonfiction book publishing of the 1920s and 1930s: the “outline,” in which large subjects (the history of the world! every school of philosophy! all of modern physics!) were distilled into a form comprehensible to the most uneducated layman.

The 5-foot-long Histomap was sold for $1 and folded into a green cover, which 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.

The chart emphasizes domination, using color to show how the power of various “peoples” (a quasi-racial understanding of the nature of human groups, quite popular at the time) evolved throughout history.