The Changing Map Of Europe’s Boundaries

The boundaries of Europe’s constituent countries have changed a lot in my lifetime. Some countries don’t exist anymore whilst others have come into existence. But it takes a map visualisation to make you realise just how much the map of Europe has changed.

Actually, it takes two map visualisations. The first, courtesy of the BBC, dates from 2005 and covers the years between 1900 and 1994. Starting wit Imperial Europe and fast forwarding though two world wars, plus the Cold War and taking in the collapse of the Communist Bloc and the expansion of the European Union.

BBC Map

The other map takes a much wider view, ranging from 1000 AD to the present day. It’s oddly fascinating to watch the Holy Roman and Byzantine Empires go from dominance to vanishing entirely.

LiveLeak Map

But the purist in me finds as much to dislike as to like in both of these maps. The BBC one is just two small and cries out for the ability to pan and zoom the map. For some unexplained reason, the map is … tiny and, though I hesitate to use the word in this content, the cartographer has obviously been experimenting with differing shades of colour to try and clearly delineate the countries but didn’t experiment hard enough.

The LiveLeak map is also small and while the video containing the map can be enlarged to full screen, there’s a loss of crispness to the map. For a map with such a wide timespan, it would have helped massively to have some kind of timeline accompanying the animation, so you can see just where in history you are.

Two maps. Both interesting. Both, for me, ultimately flawed. This sort of map just cries out to be reworked. If only I could find a suitable boundary data set spanning over a thousand years.

Written and posted from BA Galleries First Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 5 (51.47017, -0.48711)

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