Visualizing The 4,000 Year History Of Global Power

Tyler Durden's picture

Imagine creating a timeline of your country’s whole history stretching back to its inception.

It would be no small task, as VisualCapitalist's Nick Routley explains, simply weighing the relative importance of so many great people, technological achievements, and pivotal events would be a tiny miracle in itself.

While that seems like a challenge, imagine going a few steps further. Instead of a timeline for just one country, what about creating a graphical timeline showing the history of the entire world over a 4,000 year time period, all while having no access to computers or the internet?


Today’s infographic, created all the way back in 1931 by a man named John B. Sparks, maps the ebb and flow of global power going all the way back to 2,000 B.C. on one coherent timeline...

View a high resolution version of this graphic

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Histomap, published by Rand McNally in 1931, is an ambitious attempt at fitting a mountain of historical information onto a five-foot-long poster. Although the distribution of power is not quantitively defined on the x-axis, it does provide a rare example of looking at historic civilizations in relative terms. While the Roman Empire takes up a lot of real estate during its Golden Age, for example, we still get a decent look at what was happening in other parts of the world during that period.

The visualization is also effective at showing the ascent and decline of various states, nations, and empires.


Since this chart was created at the beginning of the Great Depression, one does have to consider to what extent Sparks saw history as a zero-sum exercise; a collection of nations battling one another for control over scarce territory and resources.

Crowning a world leader at certain points in history is relatively easy, but divvying up influence or power to everyone across 4,000 years requires some creativity, and likely some guesswork, as well. Some would argue that the lack of hard data makes it impossible to draw these types of conclusions (though there have been other more quantitative approaches.)

Another obvious criticism is that the measures of influence are skewed in favor of Western powers. China’s “seam”, for example, is suspiciously thin throughout the length of the timeline.

Lastly, the histomap refers to various cultural and racial groups using terms that may seem rather dated to today’s viewers.


John Spark’s creation is an admirable attempt at making history more approachable and entertaining. Today, we have seemingly limitless access to information, but in the 1930s an all encompassing timeline of history would have been incredibly useful and groundbreaking.

Critiques aside, work like this paved the way for the production of modern data visualizations and charts that help people better understand the world around them today.

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ACP's picture


Steroid's picture

The French are as big as the Germans. The former should be a little sidearm of the latter.

Actually, whole Europe should be Brittish and German, camouflaged as EU.

Edit: Sorry, I have ignored the creation date of 1931.

SafelyGraze's picture

the map leaves out amazonia.

and googleland.

and facebookia.

and twitterco.

shitshitshit's picture

I wonder how mongolians achieved such an influence despite their low demography.

Usually the potency of people lies in demographics...

Nobodys Home's picture

We have always been at war with them!

StychoKiller's picture

And Mooselvania and Pottsylvania!

HRClinton's picture

Awkward Q: 

Where exactly on that map is the emergence and very localized spread of the Almighty Yahweh?

You know, the One who --  according to the Buybull (((salesmen))) -- is greater than all, ever?

luckylongshot's picture

4000 years and still no winner. What happens is one group with no idea about the right way to apply power dethrones  another group with no idea about how to apply power. This game of thrones will continue until someone who is not stupid gains power and decides that people need to be educated on how to use power...then the game will be over.

Idiocracy's picture

bullshit, where are the Rothschilds? They should appear as a massive tumor at the bottom

HelloSpencer's picture

Not possible. There was not enough paper in the world in 1931 to express the extent of their power. So the author, instead of admitting that there was this limitation in his map, simply ommitted them hoping that people would not notice. It worked for 86 years.

Ofelas's picture

china and russia are working on it, just a bit of patience

any_mouse's picture

Where is the Zionist Empire?

I see the map predates the theft of land in 1948.

JLee2027's picture

There was no such theft.  GOD gave them that land.


Do you deny this?

shining one's picture

Prove god exists then we might start believing you.

HelloSpencer's picture

Before we ask whether or not god exists we better define clearly and unambiguously (in a mathematical sense) what god is before we wonder about its existence.


And no, definitions such as 'inifinite power', 'creator of the universe' or 'handsome, wise and all-powerful man with a grey beard' do not cut it.

Nobodys Home's picture

Uclidian math, new math or common core math?
What would Isaac Newton say? ...Ouch! Friggin apples!

Jasher's picture

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

UmbilicalMosqueSweeper's picture

Proof is in the pudding.  Chocolate or vanilla?

NiggaPleeze's picture

Yahweh gave the descendants of Abraham that land, if you believe in that Beast, but the Palestinians are descended from Abraham, so the faux "Jews" who ethnically cleansed them violated the Law of Yahweh. Not to mention that subsequent Yahweh declarations stripped the actual Jews of that covenant, given their proclivity to misbehave.

Tallest Skil's picture

Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. – 1 John 2:23

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. – John 8:31-47

Behold I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not but do lie; behold I will make them to come and worship before thy feet… – Revelation 3:9

The holy land will be reclaimed from the squatters. The whole of the world will be reclaimed from them. Nothing you say or do will stop this.

Nobodys Home's picture

So..Every religion wants to reclaim the whole of the world.
Looks to be a peaceful existence, NOT!

Before there were governments, there was religion.

Power and control twists and turns and morphs into what the general public will accept.

vic and blood's picture

Their tribal god? What else ya got?

Boomberg's picture

So God is the UN with US, Britain as enforcing angels?

bloofer's picture

Works for me! I'm going to write a holy book and claim God personally deeded Manhattan Island to my ancestors about 6,000 years ago. It was in a vision. There were some apparitions involved too, so of course that settles it.

Dragon HAwk's picture

All Just a great big game of Risk/Monopoly/Life

any_mouse's picture

Ah, an old chart that is not a product of Visual Capitalist.

Explains the detail and amount of information conveyed.

wisehiney's picture

The weak and foolish

Hate white guys

But we have many wise allies

Of every race and hue and sex

Because freedom for all people

Was hard fought and won by us

And always defended by us

And remains with us

Slavery never sat well with us

And would not have lasted

And the only great bastion of freedom

In history and ultimately for all

They will not acknowledge the truth of our solitary and historic sacrifices

In the least

Gives full display to their little lie

For what they have here

Never imagined anywhere else

Eternal slavery everywhere but under our protection

You do not have to thank us


The the lurking ferocity

And the bloodlines

Of those who will never be slaves

Still flows surreptiously

In spite of all


Wild eyed Southern Boys indeed

Nobodys Home's picture

I'm a Yankee. We all don't disagree. Thars many a redneck up heah in the wooods! We just sound a lil differnt!

wisehiney's picture

Thanks for not letting that last line matter too much

It don't

Righttoarmbears's picture

How very quaint but a very typical version of history.

Where are the Indus, where is the catholic church that controlled most of Europe until the reformation? Toilet paper at best.

alphasammae's picture

Histogram is missing Korea. Korea culture is older than Japanese culture by 500 years or more (all the way to 1500 BC. Korea a few times Year 200-600 came in poer over China. 

dogbreath's picture

I went cross eyed looking at that chart

Golden Showers's picture

Wach this cat break down fiat and stamps. Old lite.

Been on a tare with Dead Sea Scrolls and hollow Earth:


Jasher's picture

20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:

21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.

23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.

24 Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation.

25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.

26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?

27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;

28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;

29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.

30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.

31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.

32 This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,

33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.

34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.

35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.

37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.

38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.

39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.

40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.

41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.

42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.

44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.

47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.


Fer137's picture

Very inaccurate. It seems to reflect the philias and phobias of the author more than History.

For example it puts a huge width on the Muslims when Muhammad was still between Median and Mecca. Then he puts the Spanish Empire on a ridiculous width despite being present on 4 continents, while at the same time he gives the Turks a much larger strip, when the Spaniards defeated them at the Battle of Lepanto, among dozens of other nonsense.

opport.knocks's picture

No doubt that it is far from perfect, but still an amazing achievement in an era where the first drafts would have been done with pencil and paper and then set up for lithography afterward.

Omega_Man's picture

merica was just a blip , now it's gone

Moe Howard's picture

You are right, amazing how all the troops have come home and the US government is no longer interfering with other nations.

Finally, Peace!


youngman's picture

My dad was pretty powerful....where is he on this map...

brushhog's picture

We're supposed to look at this and see the USA as a relatively small power relative to a moving history and also implied is the passing of empires in and out of power through time. The goal here is to weaken the perception of western power and dominance. Another ZH Russian psy-op and about as subtle as a bowl of pickled borscht.

opport.knocks's picture

LOL good one. I know Russians are always stealing Brit versions of history to make their case.