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Histomap: Visualizing the 4,000 Year History of Global Power

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

It would be no small task, and 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?

An All-Encompassing Timeline?

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.

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histomap timeline

Histomap, published by Rand McNally in 1931, is an ambitious attempt at fitting a mountain of historical information onto a five-foot-long poster. The poster cost $1 at the time, which would equal approximately $18 when accounting for inflation.

Although the distribution of power is not quantitatively 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 competing states, nations, and empires. Did Sparks see world history as a zero-sum exercise; a collection of nations battling one another for control over scarce territory and resources?

Timeline Caveats

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. Certainly, the creator’s biases and blind spots become more apparent in the information-abundant 21st century.

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

The Legacy of Histomap

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. Indeed, the map’s publisher characterized the piece as a useful tool for examining the correlation between different empires during points in history.

histomap foreword

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.

Without a map who would attempt to study geography? –John B. Sparks

This post was first published in 2017. We have since updated it, adding in new content for 2021.

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Ranked: The World’s Top Flight Routes, by Revenue

In this graphic, we show the highest earning flight routes globally as air travel continued to rebound in 2023.

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The World’s Top Flight Routes, by Revenue

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In 2024, a record 4.7 billion people are projected to travel by air—200 million more than in 2019.

While revenues surged to an estimated $896 billion globally last year, airlines face extremely slim margins. On average, they made just $5.44 in net profit per passenger in 2023. Today, the industry faces pressures from high interest rates, supply chain woes, and steep infrastructure costs.

This graphic shows the highest earning flight routes worldwide, based on data from OAG.

The Top Revenue-Generating Routes in 2023

Below, we show the airline routes with the highest revenues in the first half of 2023:

Route Airport CodesRevenue H1 2023
Sydney to MelbourneSYD-MEL$1.21B
New York to LondonJFK-LHR$1.15B
Riyadh to JeddahRUH-JED$1.03B
Dubai to RiyadhDXB-RUH$990M
Los Angeles to New York LAX-JFK$801M
San Francisco to NewarkSFO-EWR$722M
Newark to Los AngelesEWR-LAX$682M
Singapore to SydneySIN-SYD$650M
New York to Paris JFK-CDG$647M
Perth to MelbournePER-MEL$642M

As we can see, domestic flights comprised six of the 10 largest revenue-generating flights, with Sydney to Melbourne ranking first overall, at $1.21 billion.

In fact, this route is earning more than twice that of pre-pandemic levels, even as the number of passengers declined. The flight route is largely dominated by Qantas and Virgin Australia, with Qantas achieving record-breaking domestic earnings margins of 18% in the fiscal year ending in June 2023. Lower fuel costs and soaring ticket prices were key factors in driving revenues.

Furthermore, Qantas and Virgin Australia are major carriers for flights between Melbourne and Perth, another top-earning route.

New York to London, one of the busiest and most profitable routes globally, generated $1.15 billion in revenues, representing a 37% increase compared to the same period in 2019. Overall, the flight route had 3.88 million scheduled airline seats for the full year of 2023.

The highest revenue increase over this period was for flights from Dubai to Riyadh, with revenues surging 416% year-over-year. This two-hour flight, a highly lucrative route between major financial centers, is one of the busiest in the Middle East.

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