Friday, October 3, 2008

Animated Historical Political Boundaries Version 1

View in Google Earth

Forgive me if this has been done already. I found a bunch of shapefiles for historical political boundaries on and exported them all to KML with TimeSpans.

I can not vouch for the accuracy of the boundaries or lack thereof in terms of place and time, but I think it looks interesting and would like some feedback. There seem to me to be several historical boundaries unaccounted for in this data set.

I used Google's default yellow lines so it probably looks best with many of GE's default layers off. After I showed it to somebody they suggested I use a colored fill for some of them so I tried it on one as you can see in the animated gif above. Thought about adding clickable placemarks for perhaps relevant wikipedia articles or something, but have not yet attempted that.

I like the idea of combining geography and history. A few ideas that interested me during this export:

Viewing various historical data with the Google Earth API and time slider such as:

changes in assessor/county/tax parcel data and geography

changes in municipal, state, and federal land planning and zoning

changes in land and housing values over time and space to inspect patterns on larger and smaller scales

changes in migration patterns

incident tracking over time

view-based refresh of historical imagery in cooperation with the time slider



Rich Treves said...


Very nice idea but I think your idea about fills would make it much more useful. maybe separate out the empires from each other so you have a separate timeline for each empire rather than showing them altogether?


Craig Hardy said...

I'll work on the fills.

Technically, the empires and areas of influence are separate in terms of checkboxs in the table of contents but I suppose I could make them radio boxes. I'll give that a shot too. Thanks for your comment.

Dunkleosteus said...

Really nice addon, thanks...

Some errors spotted:

* Names in 1578 map are messed up ("Poland" = Sweden's Baltic dominions, "Austrian Empire" = Poland, "Montenegro" = Ottoman Empire). Certainly Caucasus wasn't "unclaimed"!?
* Denmark-Norway and Sweden became Denmark and Sweden-Norway. Norway was never independent in between.
* I'm pretty sure Denmark wasn't called "Liao" in 882. ;)
* Ireland became independent in 1922.
* Finland's post-WWI boundaries are same as post-WWII boundaries. Ditto for Estonia and Latvia.
* What about colonies? Having most of Africa "unclaimed" or with local non-independent kingdoms is not exactly accurate IMHO. Different colors for non-independent entities and colonies?
* What about city states? And former capital cities? They could be also included. Adding non-capital cities would be even better...

Craig Hardy said...

Thanks for the tips. As I mentioned, I don't have any sources for the files I used to create this. I'll add your list to the stack of updates I'll be making to it. If anybody has some additional data (shapefiles preferably) I'll toss them in too.

On a side note, even today many fixed boundaries are 'disputed'. I can only imagine this will be the case throughout history. Perhaps I can symbolize those disputes in a similar fashion to the current Google approach, which is a big red line (I believe).