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Every Ruler in Europe Every Year Since 400 BC (thesoundingline.com)
342 points by Four_Star 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments

Really well done! Though for me this also underlines how ambiguous terms like "ruler" can be. For example, at the very end, it shows "Willem Alexander" as the "ruler" of the Netherlands. He's the ceremonial king with virtually no political power. Yet, Germany is shown to be ruled by Angela Merkel, the political leader of the federal government. Yet, despite not being a monarchy, Germany has a person with a role very similar to Willem-Alexander: President Steinmeier. Unless you're German, you have probably never heard of him, for good reason. The video should've probably either replaced Merkel with Steinmeier, or Willem-Alexander with the Merkel of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte.

This is not to nitpick on this excellent video: it's to illustrate how hard to is to explain, analyze and visualize history. This stuff is nuanced! Pick any random date in the past in this video, and there may well be something similarly "wrong-ish-but-not-entirely" somewhere on there.

Along the same lines, even kings didn't exercise absolute power. One of the recurring themes in the history of the Persian empire before Alexander was how frequently the far off governors of Egypt and Anatolia would rebel. How much control does a king have if their governor and their own army and were two months away by letter?

The Macedonian warlords who took control of Alexander's territory actually had to negotiate with cities like Athens and Rhodes. The cost of attacking them to get them to obey was too high. It was better to negotiate reasonable taxes. If a king can't set tax rates unilaterally, they aren't very powerful either.

Power exists along a long continuum.

I think you're slightly missing the point. Absolute power doesn't mean your subjects won't rebel. Nor does it mean there are people beyond your sphere of influence.

The likes of Cyrus the Great by any reasonable measure had absolute power but obviously no influence over, say, China.

Absolute power here really means that the ruler's power is unchecked. In the US for example, the president's power is checked by Congress and the courts. This is really the rule of law. The typical model for monarchs of old was quite simple: whatever the monarch said was absolute.

As an aside I recently listend to Dan Carlin's 3 part series on the Achaemenid Persian Empire titled the Kings of Kings (~20 hours of listening) and thoroughly enjoyed it. It spans a ~200 year period from Cyrus the Great to Alexander the Great and it covers subjects such as the Egyptian rebellion and how harshly the Persians came down on the Egyptians (if you believe Heroditus).

What's interesting about the Persians is just how critical this period was to the development of Western civilization. He raises the point with something like the light bulb if Edison hadn't invented it, someone else would've.

But there are two events in this period that changed history in ways that could've had completely different outcomes. Cyrus the Great reportedly freed the Jews and rebuilt the Temple and it can be argued if that hadn't happened, it may have spelt the end for Judaism and all the offshoots (so Christianity and Islam too).

The second was the Battle of Marathon, which was a turning point that stopped the Greeks being ruled by the Persians and probably greatly influenced Western civilization ever since.

Yeah, putting Merkel and other Bundeskanslers for Germany at the end was weird, they're not Heads of State, they're Heads of Government, and in all other regards the video picked the Head of State.

And as you say, back in the days of absolute monarchs, it was easy to know who was "ruling", but in modern democracies there's a lot more people involved with ruling. I think every modern democracy has the Head of State above the Head of Government, but especially in the constitutional monarchies of Europe, the monarchs have been all but stripped of their powers, and the title is merely ceremonial.

At least the US makes it simple, the President is both Head of State and Head of Government. :-)

I think the best option, tbh, would have been to just put in "Democratic". Neither federal chancellor nor the president hold any significant amount of power (except emergency situations). While the chancellor is the most powerful position, it's still rather powerless in total and the president is above them in the ranks.

I think you could also summarize; in the past governments were simpler and you could definitely say "X was ruler of Y"

Nowadays it's complicated and checks and balances make it almost impossible to say who is the top of the food chain in a government (atleast in title)

I was thinking the same about the UK, where the Queen also has no power.

But then I thought someone like Murdoch or Dacre would be appropriate as they have more power than May (but who doesn't)

Amusing (?) anecdote: It used to be (perhaps still is) that if you queried DBPedia for the "Ruler of the United States" one of the many answers was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

And Ireland is ‘ruled’ by Michael D Higgins, who has a similar role to Steinmeier, rather than Leo Varadkar, who has a similar role to Merkel. Odd.

I've heard of him... from when he was Foreign Minister. I had no idea he'd made it into the presidency.

A large majority of Dutch as well as German legislation is dictated from the EU, to which all member-states have outsourced great swathes of national sovereignty.

So it migth at least be argued that their common ruler is Jean-Claude Juncker or some similar unelected bureaucrat or sinecurean.

This is the worst kind of clickbait/linkbait website, embedding other people's content for profit. Please change the URL to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpKqCu6RcdI

It was also submitted at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17163910 under another indirect URL, although that article did at least add a whole bunch of "What is a despot?" waffle to the original video. (-:

Blogspam, I think they call it

hmm Is any media self-interested simply because the hosting has a reimbursement system ?

off topic - but I feel that the massive hole that privacy is in, is directly related to the -lack- of micropayments for authors.. so, not only is it not click-bait, it is actually a sustainable way to publish.. more, not less, reimbursement for individual authors IMO

I get a humbling feeling watching this video. Every one of those people on the map were super important at a place and time, but everything they did or ruled is now represented by a 1 or 2 second blip in the video among thousands of other fleeting blips.

The author/creator of this video seems pretty humble himself: His "About" entry on YouTube says, "I make maps. Location France." Nothing else.

The "Pale Blue Dot" photograph strikes the same chord for me. Carl Sagan's reflection on it can be especially moving [1].

[...] The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. [...]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot#Reflections

As someone who has never been religious and has all the traits to be scientific-minded, I will play the devil's advocate and say that Sagan's pale blue dot never struck a chord with me at all. Significance can be compared with size, now? This whole idea contradicts the very nature of being human which is to make up meaning according to the culture and trends of the time. Not to mention that even the tiniest piece of the universe, say, a quark, or a tiny physics formula can have eternal significance within the grand scheme of things. Overall the message of peace among people is well-received, but the tactic is cheesy and not well thought-out.

> This whole idea contradicts the very nature of being human which is to make up meaning according to the culture and trends of the time.

We all do it: we have assumptions in form of learned concepts or experiences, place importance on some of them and then use it to prove a point.

You state that it didn't "struck a chord with you at all" and then proceed with your assumptions / value system ("... physics formula can have eternal significance within the grand scheme of things"). For all positions, assumptions and opinions there exists a position where all of it doesn't matter.

Trying to be scientific is also a belief system. Recognizing that all human beings share the trait of having assumptions (some of them called facts) and deriving behavior and opinions from it is the key.

This understanding can support empathy which was generally a good strategy to have in the past (e.g. even monkeys implement fairness concepts based on individuals trying to manage resources in groups which IMHO is one important aspect of the origin of empathy).

I can understand your position of relativism, but it's very close to nihilism. This is not inherently bad (nothing is good or bad, anyways - I'm also a big fan of relativism), but it can be detrimental to mental health and overall well-being.

The tactic may be too simple to "get you", but your point of view is equally flawed in another way (as well as mine).

The question is: What are you standing for if you don't find his arguments convincing? Nitpicking and being anti is not a good long-term strategy, maybe we can help him with better arguments for empathy that resonate with scientific-minded thinkers like you.

Bane of humanity is that they are glorified copy machines, creating flawed simulations in their minds and trying to validate themselves using others. So I strive for one thing I know I cannot achieve: to produce thought original enough that will let me die with pride.

I'm pretty sure that you're going to work this out :)

> glorified copy machines

> So I strive for one thing I know I cannot achieve

There's some serious cynism going on here. Maybe cabaret artist is something for you to consider. The late George Carlin was incredibly funny because of it.

Some people love jokes based on materialistic and dry analysis of human behavior. I do.

Significance is not related to size: meeting a few virus particles [1] could be the most significant - and possibly last - event of notice in your life. On the other hand few people will be aware of meeting the largest - and possibly oldest - organism on the planet when they look at a honey mushroom in Oregon National Forest [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus

[2] http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/nature/the-worlds-large...

It can be moving and put things into perspective, but if being the momentary master of a fraction of a dot is insignifant, then so are the "rivers of blood" that were spilled.

In the context of the cosmic arena, the Holocaust is no different from me stubbing my toe in terms of impact and significance.

Truly. I studied history in college. Whenever I start to get worked up about the current political climate I remind myself that it is all just a blip on the course of history and someday in the future there will be a similar video and our time will go by in the blink of an eye and that future watcher will care as much about what happened in our days as I care about what happened to the people of 400BC.

Your field of study is the source for this video, the preservation of greek philosophy and many other important thought schools and religions.

The majority may not care so much about the daily life of the people of the past. But we sure care about their significant thoughts.

Thanks for doing this job, it's more important for people today than it seems.

The daily politics will probably fade to nothing much but the rise of AI is a once in a billion years thing that may get looked back on. I'm not sure how that'll play out on a future youtube rulers video.

Consider the vast white areas toward the beginning. Entire civilizations lived and died there, and nobody living now has any idea what any of their names were.

Even a king is one of many, in the long run. I sometimes imagine how they see themselves compared to their peers. For some it might have been pretty difficult to shine, despite having reached the top of society.

Fantastic video!

Seeing centuries of European history flash by reminds me of the rich history - whether you count it in blood, culture or intellectual progress - of the part of the world that I happen to live in, and rather proud of it.

Its one thing to know of the decline of the Roman empire, its another to see the rapid decline graphically.

When I first saw this I was hoping for a commentary on some secret, ancient feature on european distance measuring devices

Glad I'm not the only one. I thought I was going to see a slow progression of measuring devices and how we went from a somewhat straight stick with notches to what we have today.

folding straight sticks with notches? :)

same here. The history of distance measurement is very interesting.

Would that go hand in hand with cartography and surveying as well?

It was interesting reading this after reading the Ribbonfarm essay on the Thirty Years War, because it shows just how damaging civil war is:


After Rome breaks up in 476, the Italian peninsula is left a patchwork of small city states that frequently change ownership, and (except for invasions by Theoderic and Justinian) doesn't re-unify until 1871.

The 30 Years War under Ferdinand II in 1617 similarly broke up the Holy Roman Empire - the largest power in Europe for nearly 7 centuries - into a small aggregation of city-states with constantly shifting borders, and they also didn't reunite until Bismarck & Kaiser Wilhelm I, also in 1871.

WW1 did the same to the Austro-Hungarian empire, which still hasn't recovered and may never, and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 did the same for Russia and the Warsaw Pact.

I think the point of civil wars being damaging is spot on, but the example of the Thirty Years War as a civil war is quite flawed: The Holy Roman Empire had always been a small aggregation of city states, as you call it. The position of emperor held some political power, and attempts to centralize into a state were made a few times (Most significantly with the Reichsreform of 1495, which could not be enforced), but ultimately, the Holy Roman Emperor was one noble among many, with the rest of the empire paying him nothing more than lip service. And a detail: Bismarcks Prussia didn't reunite the HRE, it formed a nation out of most of the culturally German parts of the former empire (which had been dismantled already during the Napoleonic Wars), notably and among others missing Austria since they were historical rivals.

I always liked Voltaire's quote:

"The Holy Roman Empire is neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire."

Makes you wonder how and why the United States was able to recover from its own civil war within a relatively short amount of time.

(Although it could be argued, possibly, that we haven’t actually recovered, but rather buried our disagreements and enmities deep down, and they still occasionally resurface.)

We recovered from the Civil War so quickly because of two reasons. First, the entire basis of the war was over divisibility of the Union to begin with, so the winning side was hardly apt to permit a fracturing into city states. Second, we were astoundingly beneficent with the traitors when all was said and done.

The English civil war was another example which was mostly buried relatively quickly.

In both cases good economic conditions and social and geographic mobility followed fairly quickly afterwards. It's possible that made people forget old grievances.

Same thought occurred to me as I was searching for counterexamples.

My initial hypothesis is that civil wars fought over economic systems tend to result in reunification afterwards with the more efficient economic system establishing hegemony over the less efficient one, while civil wars fought over culture tend to result in universal ruin. So the U.S. Civil War was ultimately a contest between manufacturing (Union) vs. slave plantations (Confederacy), and the Union won and re-established hegemony because it was better able to mobilize its railroads, arms production, shipbuilding, etc. There are a few other examples that support this, eg. the Russian Revolution pitted the feudal landed aristocracy against the urban industrial working classes, and was won by urban industrial working classes, who subsequently reunified the country (at least until Communism fell apart in 1991).

That hypothesis can't explain why the Reds defeated the Whites in the ensuing Russian Civil War, though - the White coalition included large numbers of the liberal urban bourgeoise. It also can't explain why the Communists defeated the Nationalists in China, yet subsequently adopted an economic system much more like Taiwan. And it doesn't explain why the English Civil War (which was Catholic vs. Protestant, like the 30 Years War) was comparatively bloodless and resulted in greater unity rather than disintegration.

I wonder if it may have something to do with the organizational abilities of the leaders (the Union, Bolsheviks, and forces of William of Orange were all quite well-organized compared to their adversaries), or of the relative power balances between them. Both of these are still fairly unsatisfying as answers though.

The English civil was not religious, was not "Comparatively bloodless", and resulted in a 10 year dictatorship


So you can just directly watch the video.

Also tip, you can set speed to 2x (or 0.5x if you like) in YouTube

Did anyone else click this article thinking there would be pictures of old measuring sticks?



Nicely done! I just watched the whole thing beginning to end, with a bunch of pauses to see connections.

Though I wonder, for my native Hungary in the post-WWII times I think the Presidents are listed, but those are pretty much ceremonial roles, not actually "rulers". The power would probably be with the Prime Minister (and some of them do tend to think of themselves as sort of kings)...

I love how the 'ruler' of switzerland changes every year (from the 19th century onwards) Because that's how it is, every year the ruler changes, rotates among the 6 ministers.

Given its political structure, the true rulers of Switzerland are and remain the people. We designate some annual figureheads to shake hands with (rulers and representatives of) foreign powers --especially clear since the adoption of the 1848 Constitution-- but that's not ruling our country.

Some would say the true rulers of Switzerland work in Brussels.

7 Ministers with one holding a double mandate (Minister & President)

Same thing happens to pre-Italy at the beginning of the video.

And Athenes which had the democracy long before other countries.

a/k/a the Roman Republic.

In the end things get a little bit murky (perhaps earlier as well but I wouldn't know).

For some countries the map shows the person who actually ruled but wasn't head of state (such as German chancellors), for others it shows powerless constitutional monarchs (such as Elisabeth II).

If you squint your eyes and play the video really quickly, this looks less like the result of thousands of years of directed human endeavor and more like a bubbling cauldron or any other natural physical process.

A couple patterns emerge from watching this. First, there's a lot of entropy in terms of border definitions and leader turnover. The now Italy region had a new leader every year for a stretch, until eventually Julius Caesar. We see as the video progresses, the mean leader reign per country/region seems to go up significantly. Like the bubbling cauldron is congealing.

A second trend that appears throughout the video is the rise and fall of dictators/conquerors. You'll see periods of relative stability, until suddenly a new leader appears and like a cancer, spreads to neighboring regions. Soon enough though, that cancer recedes as the dictator is deposed, almost popping like a bubble (to mix metaphors). You see it with Napoleon, you see it with Hitler. It's easy to see that throughout history, a single malignant character has the capacity to cause an extraordinary amount of disruption.

Under the Republic, Rome was supposed to elect two consuls every year, with term limits that prevented the same person from being elected consecutively. Naturally, that system fell apart in practice, but remained in effect de jure.

Publius Gnaeus Dipshitus may have been elected Consul during the era of Sulla or Marius or Pompey, but guess how much real power they executed.

Good points.

This video, while a nice visualization and introduction to the topic, obviously had to simply things a bit. In addition to the aforementioned "two consuls per year" bit, the video usually only listed one of them.

For example, in 216 BC the Roman leader is listed as "Terentius Varro", or Gaius Terentius Varro, who served as consul with Lucius Aemilius Paullus. During this year, the Romans (under command of the two consuls, as they were usually designated as commander-in-chiefs as well) suffered possibly their worst defeat ever at the Battle of Cannae against Hannibal. During this defeat, Rome lost perhaps 20% of its military-age male population. Both consuls apparently died in the battle as well.

Presumably Varro is listed as the leader this year, because most of the blame for the defeat at Cannae was attributed to him. However, this may have been due to Paullus having a more influential family who was able to defend his legacy.

If you're interested more about this, I highly recommend this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvGqp2gpo3s

The related channel is also great: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_vLHiWVBh_FR9vbeuiY-A

A lot of the "entropy" of border definitions is that borders were in fact not rigidly defined until recently, and a lot of areas nominally within a state's borders would have had high degrees of autonomy. Therefore any presentation like this must by necessity make many subjective and probably controversial decisions about what constitutes the border at any given time. Lots of the fluidity is just noise.

On the other hand, in some eras there was even greater fluidity, because in the middle ages especially, most of Europe consisted of land controlled by various nobles with often only nominal suzerainty of a king, and every time one of these landed nobles died or inherited or married the borders would change, and there existed hundreds of semi-independent states in modern Germany alone. That can't be represented well on a map this scale.

Secondly, the thing you're observing in Italy is just the normal functioning of the Roman republic, which elected two consuls every year.

Thirdly, the "single malignant character", aka the "Great Man Theory" of history, is honestly very simplified and not really accepted by modern historians. A modern historian would rather say the societal conditions were ripe for a warmongering dictator to arise, and would point to many factors outside the existence of any one individual as instrumental in creating that set of circumstances.

Overall, your observations show just how intellectually dangerous it is to draw broad conclusions from such a simplified presentation. It's neat to see, but it's far too arbitrary and simplistic to draw any sweeping conclusions about history from.

> First, there's a lot of entropy in terms of border definitions and leader turnover. The now Italy region had a new leader every year for a stretch

This is one way that illustrations like this, while cool, are misleading or at least obscure the situation. Rome under the Republic was ruled by two Consuls who served a joint one-year term, hence the seemingly chaotic turnover when in fact the Republic was more-or-less stable for centuries under this system. The yearly turnover was an expected feature. This animation makes it seem like a period of eternal war where rulers are constantly being overthrown.

The now Italy region had a new leader every year for a stretch, until eventually Julius Caesar. We see as the video progresses, the mean leader reign per country/region seems to go up significantly. Like the bubbling cauldron is congealing.

I don't think what you're observing there is plausibly described as an instance of some general law of increasing stability. What you're talking about is the transition from the Roman republic, with a(n unwritten) constitution that mandated annual elections, to the Roman empire, whose rulers (typically) remained in place until death.

Not that I disagree with pretty much all the overall points you make, but I'm really weirded out by Napoleon always being put alongside Hitler in the "agressive conquerors" group. There are plenty of example that would fit, but a man who was fighting defensive wars >90% of the time and mostly ended up conquering because he and his army were better than the others at wars is kind of an odd choice. Even his push on Russia was made defensively since they refused to apply the continental blockade, and the english used the money to fund countries to rise against France. It's especially true since almost every time he tried to turn into the agressor it failed and he didn't conquer anything that way, only when defending.

Also he didn't exactly fit what is usually understood by "dictator that was deposed", he was beloved by the french people, took over by referendum and deposed by the nobilities of the other surrounding countries because they got scared that their own populace would start asking for this whole "meritocracy" thing.

You make a few coalitions with all of europe against a country because they believe their people are all equals, don't be surprised that after a while they try seize control of your resources.

I guess it's because the Napoleonic wars were so bloody relatively speaking. The proportion of the European population that died as a result of them is in the same ballpark* as the proportion that died as a result of WW2. The number of dead bodies is not an unreasonable metric for measuring the actions of "aggressive conquerors".

* difficult to get precise figures but I estimate within a multiple of 2 or 3

This is great but kinda confusing. What's up with large parts simply staying white in the beginning? Northern Europe only starts to get some names around 709 AD, at which point a lot of Eastern Europe is still white.

Does that mean we don't have any good records from these regions during that time or is this simply on account of too many small tribes sharing these regions and the author (understandably) not wanting to go with so much detail?

We also didn't have borders. In the case of well-defined civilizations like the Romans or Chinese it's relatively easy to tell where the empire ends - look at the walls. Even for the Huns, you could tell the greatest extent of their conquests. But for the Gothic tribes? They were semi-nomadic groups of clans. It's hard to put a dividing line on a map when it's unclear even what the basic unit of a polity was.

A bit of both, at least in Northern Europe. For a very long time the Vikings/Northmen lived in small groups ruled by a local, elected chieftain (e.g. Erik, son of Leif). Much of Eastern Europe was similar, and subject to migrations, as well as having regular visits and settlements by Viking invaders. These tribes did not leave much in terms of oral or written records (sagas have been used to trace a very limited history of Nordic rulers, and runes tended to relate to private events).

People did reside in those areas but we often don't have the names. In some cases we do. Caesar wrote extensively about his campaigns in present-day France and he mentions the leaders of the Gauls quite a bit. So this map should include them. At least, it should show the area as "Gallic tribes."

> At least, it should show the area as "Gallic tribes."

That'd probably a good solution which doesn't make it look like most of Europe is missing its population.

I guess the creator didn't go with that because it wouldn't fit with the theme of showing actual rulers and not regions of influence by tribes.

I liked the variant with names of countries and population count better that was published four months earlier: http://youtu.be/UY9P0QSxlnI

It does include them. The map gets populated with the band we know at the time we knew about them (note how France gets filled in just before it gets conquered by Rome)

I watched the Anatolian region, seems to be highly accurate.

same here, as it looks like a central hub during those times.

it is a bit misleading calling these people "rulers" as some of them have pure representative role, compared to prime ministers with executive powers

Yeah the big gray blob in the middle of the map (i'm guessing the Holy Roman Empire) were comprised of a collection of city states and regional fiefs that elected a "emperor" with barely any power ever so often.


One of the "big gray blob(s) in the middle of the map" is the Black Sea.

I was also thinking it’s misleading because while the tribes to the north may not have had as an extensive written language as the Romans and Greeks, they certainly had rulers.

I'm willing to accept that as necessary; we can't expect the creators to have access to information that may not exist, so it's better that they put nothing than something inaccurate.

I thought that was one of the most interesting parts of the map - those regions weren't writing, so we knew nothing about them until the Romans started making inroads to the rest of Europe and crossing swords with those out there, and writing down the names of the rulers they were fighting with. So as tendrils of Rome go out on the map you see a scattering of rulers around those tendrils.

You have to be known to get in the history books though.

Which means either having a written language or being in close proximity and annoying enough to a culture that does.

But to your point, sure, not a complete record. Still an impressive presentation.

I was also thinking that within pockets of larger territories there were probably areas of relative autonomy. Neat lines of borders and centralized control within them seem like a relatively recent invention, even if the larger narrative ends up more or less telling an accurate story.

I had the same thought. I’m not sure how to represent that on a map, but I think it could use something more than just a vast white space.

Or when they wrote, they wrote in less persistent form, like carving in wood?

Seeing all these empires and countries changing hands, unifying, expanding and breaking up again makes me think more about the concept of national identity tied to a geographic spot as very problematic.

If I went back in time 200 years, 500 years then 1000 years to the exact same spot odds are I won’t feel more related to the people I meet than people from any other spot in Europe.

Rulers and nations or nationality are not the same. Just because you happened to be conquered for some time doesn't mean, that your language, culture and customs will change.

No, but given enough generations with the new empire odds are culture, customs and language will probably change in the conquered area.

At the time, nobody really cared about the languages and cultures, they cared mostly about regular payment of the taxes. Language become only important, when you had the ambition to get a job at the royal court or somewhere nearby hierarchy-wise. Since the monarchs were getting married across the entire Europe, it was unknown, which language will be the next hip one.

Languages and nations got their prominence only after French revolution, as a new bonding for the statehood, once the monarchs were gone.

If something really wanted to change the customs and culture, it were religions, not empires. Not even Roman Catholics managed that, though.

The end of this video appears quite stable. But there were tons of lengthy stable periods prior to that!

The stability of the Pax Romana is so clear in this video. Small wonder the American Founding Fathers sought to emulate it when starting from scratch, rather than the chaos that ensued after its fall.

For anyone that would like to know more about the stories of those people, I can recommend the History of Rome podcast and its many great descendents.

Personally I find hisotry becomes a lot more interesting and memorable, when it's all woven together in the one big story that it is.

Pretty cool, very interesting to see European history at a glance! Thanks! One suggestion - the very end has often presidents where prime ministers have the most power - perhaps changing it to PMs would be more comparable to ancient/medieval rulers?

Bit disappointed that Britain shows Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus in the 5th century, but not Magnus Maximus (Macsen Wledig), who's historically much better attested, in the 4th.

Awesome! Reminds me of the after match game review of civilization.

The data for the rulers I can get from WikiData <3, but are the land coverage polygons open source aka available somewhere? I would love to use them in my own projects.

I looked for something like that a while back but did not find it. It would be great to have. It is also interesting to think about how a data model for evolving geographical boundaries would look. Preferably as a set of "patches" rather than yearly snapshots?

I understand that a company which has invested in these maps wants a ROI, but really, the polygons should be in the public domain and improved on accuracy. I can imagine a lot of people would be interested to work on this.

Yes. Perhaps the next major Wikipedia - like project :-)

I made https://histori.city to be a wikipedia + maps mashup. the novel feature was adding a time range control so you can navigate the map in both space and across time.

it's a work in progress, currently has a few tens of thousands of battles and city-foundings throughout history. it would be nice to remove google dependency and use OSM.

I once thought of such a project - a dynamic map of borders and battles/army movements through history. Perhaps crowdsourced ala Wikimapia/OpenStreetMap. But never tried to work on making this project reality. Could have even scientific value, but also high potential for quarells, and need to somehow represent uncertainty, probably.

It isn't moving very fast, but OpenHistoricalMap is an existing thing:


It is based on the OpenStreetMap tech stack.

An approach similar to Wikidata could be taken. "According yo Israel, the border changed like this". I.e. not a database of objective facts, but of statements.

Such an interesting map. You get to see a lot of things I haven't noticed before. Like the fact that the Byzantine empire reconquered rome during the 500s

It did, but it wasn't a very strong hold IIRC.

By the way, I fully recommend: https://thehistoryofbyzantium.com/

That's true -- for the first time, I learned about a Roman emperor called Trajan during whose time, it seemed from the animation like the Roman empire was the largest it has even been in Europe! How come the history books don't focus on these successful and well-behaved emperors?

I come from a Latin country and the history of the Roman Empire is a huge topic in History classes. And I definitely learned about Trajan and knew that the Roman Empire reached its territorial peak under him, plus he has a good reputation as a relatively enlightened (for the time) ruler.

The Antonines (Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius) just don't offer the scandal and gossip that drove a lot of what people remembered. "Things were pretty much alright for about 80 years" doesn't make for exciting history-telling, though it sure makes for nicer living.

That said they definitely are covered in the history books I've seen, and specifically mentioned in the context of the Pax Romana...

Trajan is actually well-known in Italy, thanks to an eponymous column in Rome that depicts his conquers [1]. The popular Trajan typeface [2] comes from the inscription at the base of that column.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan's_Column

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan_(typeface)

This is so amazing. What struck me the most is how, of all the hundreds (thousands?) of names displayed, we're only taught a handful in history. Being from the East but raised in the West, other than a couple of the "Eastern" rulers and their massive (land-wise) conquests of Europe were never mentioned in any of my history classes.

Funny how big names like Alexander, Caesar, Atilla, Napoleon and Hitler seem to fly by in an instant compared to the vast timespan of almost 2,5 millenea. Most of the other names don't even ring a bell and seem to have ruled longer. Other rulers must have really been so unremarkable.

We tend to recognize the names that were involved in large territorial gains or losses (in other words, war).

Probably for the average commoner, living in one of those boring kingdoms with a now-forgotten ruler was a much better deal.

A history of Europe is a history of constant wars. Also, it is interesting that some countries have had relatively stable borders for a long time (like Spain, France, Germany, Great Britain) and some were reconquered many times (Middle East countries, Easterm Europe).

I've been reading Warren Carrol's history of Christendom, and while it's an engaging series, it's hard to keep track of or visualize the sweeping changes. This video is gold. So much of what I've been reading just clicked into place.

Why did the Romans do right (and then, not do) that others did not, and ended up with such a large empire? The map does not show all Roman territory in North Africa and the Middle east, which was great.

It uses interesting combination of slavic, latin and german spelling of slavic names. Also very interesting choices of when eg. Bohemia is shown as part of HRE and when it's independent.

Interesting that Hitler and Napoleon were over in the blink of an eye, relatively speaking.

Very cool but it's a shame that bits of North Africa (Egypt) and Asia (Judea / Palestine) are excluded. Not Europe technically but parts of the Mediterranean organically

It is interesting as video but would be much more interesting as individiual maps, to look at when reading about a specific episode in history.

Did early Rome have a different ruler every year?

Two different rulers, the consuls: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_consul.

Not sure of the historicity, but would have helped if the empire/kingdom/ethnicity was also mentioned.

From the same producer/YouTube channel: The History of Europe: Every Year https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY9P0QSxlnI

That's the problem with Europe - every European country used to be a great empire once and people are nostalgic of those times.

Being able to call this territory "yours" again would mean war. Or a union. And we do have a union which works ok so far, hope we can keep it.

> That's the problem with Europe

Really? That's "the" problem of Europe?

> every European country used to be a great empire once and people are nostalgic of those times

How can people even be nostalgic about times they can't even remember? The last "great empire" in Europe was perhaps Germany in the 1940s. Few people remain alive who can remember it, and I don't think any of them would express a desire to be occupied by Nazis again. What would you say are the great empires that "we" have been a part of? Perhaps the French Empire in the time of Napoleon? Or perhaps the Romans? Seems like a long time ago to be nostalgic about, I doubt most Europeans could even tell you in which centuries those things even happened.

Here in the Netherlands we used to be a naval superpower, with many colonies all over the world. While it's pretty cool to imagine such a little country having an amazing navy, it was also a time of slavery and oppression (and a very lucrative slave trade with North America). Hardly something any decent person would want to be a part of, or return to. In fact we made fun of one of our PMs when he coined the term "VOC-mentaliteit".

I think the desire for a union is mostly a desire to have some influence on the world. Compared to the countries such as the US, China, and India, most individual European countries are tiny, and unable to make much of a difference in the world. If the GDPR was introduced in only a single country (e.g. Italy) but not the rest of Europe, nobody would even care. I strongly doubt this desire has anything to do with nostalgia.

'The last "great empire" in Europe was perhaps Germany in the 1940s.'

Not the Eastern/Soviet Bloc?

I was really expecting a series of yardsticks

startup idea: make a real-globe-shaped screen showing these - or any other geography-in-time uploaded to it..

Came hoping it was going to be a history of measuring length over the last few millennia.

Absolutely beautiful!

Putin's Russia should be absolutely RED, not yellow. Putin is a communist and slowly returning every aspect of the Soviets style of living.

It's crazy how little the borders change after WW2 compared to all the rest of history.

Makes me wonder how long this period of peace will last.

Just after nuclear bombs were invented.

Coincidence? I say not.

True, but other things came about around that time as well, like the United Nations, or the rise of secularism/atheism/laicism, or the fact that the power game changed away from the national-state level (the map does not show the territorial gains and losses of the Communist block, or the European Union), or that a combination of the US rising and European countries losing basically all their colonies meant that the power game shifted away from Europe.

> the United Nations

They are useless. They did nothing to stop Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, or the war that followed and is stil ongoing. They did nothing to stop Yugoslav wars here, earlier in 1990-s.

IMO the 2nd most significant thing after the nukes is global economy. Most countries are ruled by reasonable people who understand you can’t simultaneously bomb people and trade with the same people. Economic activities like trading and investments are far more profitable than fighting wars, even if you win these wars.

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