Visualizing Empires Decline

Here’s an interesting visualization of the expansion and contraction of colonial powers from the 19th century through the present day. I assume the shapes include the actual countries of Britain, Spain, France and Portugal and that their size in the end reflects, in part, their land mass. The description accompanying the video notes, “The data refers to the evolution of the top 4 maritime empires of the XIX and XX centuries by extent.” But each of these countries still occupies some overseas territory that is in dispute. One is certainly aware of this living in the north of Morocco where there are two Spanish enclaves.

Visualizing empires decline from Pedro M Cruz on Vimeo.

Such visualizations strike me as extraordinarily effective pedagogical tools. They really help you appreciate comparative scale and pace.

As a scholar of North Africa I was very much aware that the French left Algeria in the same year that the Beatles released their first UK singles, Ray Charles was the best selling musician of the year in the US, President Kennedy was killed and my older sister was born. That is to say recently. And this visualization makes it clear that this wasn’t the end of the colonial era. Its quite interesting.

More on that project