Visualizing the Rise and Decline of Four Empires

(Video Link)

Pedro M. Cruz, a graduate student in information visualization and interaction design, created this time-elapsed representation of the rise and decline of the British, French, Portuguese, and Spanish overseas empires from 1800 to 2000. He writes:

The data refers to the evolution of the top 4 maritime empires of the XIX and XX centuries by extent. I chose the maritime empires because of their more abrupt and obtuse evolution as the visual emphasis is on their decline. The first idea to represent a territory independence was a mitosis like split — it’s harder to implement than it looks. Each shape tends to retain an area that’s directly proportional to the extent of the occupied territory on a specific year. The datasource is mostly our beloved wikipedia. The split of a territory is often the result of an extent process and it had to be visualized on a specific year. So I chose to pick the dates where it was perceived a de facto independence (e.g. the most of independence declarations prior to the new state’s recognition). Dominions of an empire, were considered part of that empire and thus not independent.

Link via Hit & Run

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

I think many Canadians are taught to exaggerate the important of 1867 for patriotic reasons. But after 1867 there was still a) no such thing as "Canadian citizenship," b) no independent Canadian foreign policy (including no Canadian embassies), c) no independent Canadian military, and d) no self-alterable Canadian constitution. The British parliament also retained the ability to legislate for Canada directly, and thus override the Canadian government, if they deemed the cause necessary. Read the words of any 19th Century Canadian politician and you'll see they speak quite openly and proudly of their country's status a "colony," and are actually very down on the idea of "independence" as it implies a split from the Empire. Famous quote from Robert Borden- "The Empire first, and within the Empire, Canada first."

The Statute of Westminster in 1931 saw Canada (and the other dominions of the British Empire) finally gain most of those above powers. There never really was a super-clean break with the Empire (the monarchy still remains, even) but the SoW is probably the best date to recognize what most people would consider "true independence."
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I second Carpus. Canadian confederation occurred in 1867. However, the author seems to be lumping Canada's independence in with the Statute of Westminster (1931) which granted many colonies independence and affirmed Canada's independence. However, very few historians will see the Statute of Westminster as having anything to do with Canadian independence. Frankly, the most likely second place answer you will get is the signing of the constitution in 1981.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Cute, but I don't completely understand whey the 'splits' occur when they do. E.g. why is Canada blebbing off from Britain in the early 20th century? It's been an independent country since 1867.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Visualizing the Rise and Decline of Four Empires"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More