History History Timelines

History - Timelines

In contrast to geological and cosmological timelines, which are frequently found, including in open source license, on the web, there is suprisingly little usable graphical content on Human History. This is not to say that no-one has compiled such material, there are amazing projects, such as this one, but it has yet to be scanned online in a useable format. Similarily, there are lists of dates of periods of history, or areas of history, such as religion or science or ancient Rome, but it is hard to find an overall list of basic dates. In any case, a mere linear chronology could no more do justice to the complexity of human history than a linear timeline could of the phylogeny of life. Big Bang cosmology means that the evolution of the cosmos follows a more linear path, but even abiotic evolution is not strictly linear. A number of graphical timelines of history can be found on Michael Friendly's Timelines and Visual Histories page, including Hammond's Graphic History of Mankind. On that page there is the following description:

"The Hammond World Atlas Corp. produced this 8-page, fold-out Graphic History of Mankind in conjunction the Hammond Historical World Atlas. The author/designer is unknown. It was apparently produced around 1999, the last recorded event." (Friendly 2001). See also Milestones in the History of Data Visualization (pdf by the same author).

The first and last pages are as follows:

Hammond's Graphic History of Mankind
additional pages here)
Hammond's Graphic History of Mankind

In keeping with many older books, time is read from the top of the page downwards, the opposite to the geological timescale. There is the tendency now to present timelines that read from left to right). Ideally, a timeline should present a phylogenetic interplay of cultures, civilizations and so on, consisting of both "vertical" tradition from the past and "horizontal" influence by and of, and cross-fertisation with, other cultures(. Although some big picture proponents have tried to explain the evolution of human consciousness in terms of a series of ideal psychological or socio-cultural stages, but such approaches tends to be simplistic and misleading, because they reduce the richness of human socio-cultural diveristy to a single dimension. MAK111005

update: Matt Baker has produced an illustrated Timeline of World History, Wikimedia version, no pictures which gives major dates and the span of empires and similarly reads from top to bottom,. MAL111011


Friendly, Michael (2001), Gallery of Data Visualization, Electronic document, http://www.datavis.ca/gallery/, Accessed: 10/04/2011 22:46:29

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last modified MAK111005

text by MAK Creative Commons Attribution License text by Michael Friendly Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License 2001.