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.
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.
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.
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 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)
But then I thought someone like Murdoch or Dacre would be appropriate as they have more power than May (but who doesn't)
So it migth at least be argued that their common ruler is Jean-Claude Juncker or some similar unelected bureaucrat or sinecurean.
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
The author/creator of this video seems pretty humble himself: His "About" entry on YouTube says, "I make maps. Location France." Nothing else.
[...] 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. [...]
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.
> 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.
In the context of the cosmic arena, the Holocaust is no different from me stubbing my toe in terms of impact and significance.
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.
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.
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.
"The Holy Roman Empire is neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire."
(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.)
In both cases good economic conditions and social and geographic mobility followed fairly quickly afterwards. It's possible that made people forget old grievances.
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.
So you can just directly watch the video.
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)...
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).
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.
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.
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:
The related channel is also great:
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.
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.
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.
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.
* difficult to get precise figures but I estimate within a multiple of 2 or 3
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is based on the OpenStreetMap tech stack.
By the way, I fully recommend: https://thehistoryofbyzantium.com/
That said they definitely are covered in the history books I've seen, and specifically mentioned in the context of the Pax Romana...
Probably for the average commoner, living in one of those boring kingdoms with a now-forgotten ruler was a much better deal.
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.
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.
Not the Eastern/Soviet Bloc?
Makes me wonder how long this period of peace will last.
Coincidence? I say not.
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.