History just keeps happening – there’s nothing you can do about that. But learning as much as possible is deeply rewarding, and helps you better understand the world.
This week Cool Websites and Apps digs into five sites that give you a better idea of history. Explore maps from other ages, see where people are moving to and from, then work out one way of discovering who the most famous people in history are. Let’s get stared.
Geacron: See the World Map for Any Year
The nations of today didn’t always exist: almost all of them didn’t take their current shape until relatively recently. Geocron is the perfect site to explore this with.
Recent examples, like South Sudan, are obvious to imagine, but some other bits of history are downright unintuitive until you explore them. For example: did you know that the modern nation of Mexico was established before Italy as we know it? Here’s a map from 1860:
What other weird facts like this can you find? Let’s talk in the comments below.
It’s fascinating to see how the world took shape over the years, with countries as we know them today slowly taking shape. Here’s 1500:
The world was opening up, and Europe was taking shape. And of course, the world looked different during the Roman Empire:
Orbis: Google Maps for Ancient Rome
While we’re on the subject: imagine if you could use Google Maps way back in ancient history. No, I don’t mean using Google Maps on an old Nokia phone , though that is impressive – I’m talking about using Google Maps before the fall of the Roman Empire. How long would it take to get from ancient Rome to the far-flung city of Londinium?
Yep: it would take 23.2 days to get from Rome to London. Think about that next time you’re complaining about air travel.
You can configure this app to look at a variety of different travel options, so play around with it and see what works. Remember kids: time travel sounds fun, but the logistics when you get there are going to be difficult.
Thanks to Rob Hindle, who suggested this one in the comments of our recent mesmerizing maps roundup.
A Roman citizen could travel from modern-day England to the Middle East without ever leaving the empire, so people moved around quite a bit. But that’s nothing compared to the modern world, where people are moving between continents at astonishing rates. This site lets you visualize that movement.
Click around to see how many people moved between continents and nations in the last 25 years. As one of the 100,000 people who left Canada between 2005 and 2010, it’s fascinating to check out the other migrations that took place during that time period. It’s a great reminder that history is an ongoing process, and we’re all part of it.
Pantheon: List of The Most Famous People in History
Wikipedia’s seemingly endless usefulness never ceases to amaze, and the MIT Media Lab project Pantheon is a great example of this. To really oversimplify, this project uses Wikipedia links to determine who the most influential people in history are (read the full methodology here, it’s fascinating).
You can discover who the most famous people from modern-day nations are, or browse the most influential people in a number of categories – politicians, composers, scientists, or pretty much anything. I cannot overstate how much time I’ve lost to this site, but it’s all worthwhile. Bookmark this one.
We end this article with a small site over at the BBC that takes the long view on history – and when I say long, I mean billions of years.
Take a quick tour of our collective history, from the formation of the planet Earth until the emergence of the human race. It’s a great long view of things, check it out.
What History Resources Do You Love?
I can’t get enough history, and I hope you’re enjoying these roundups as much as I am. If you want a few more fascinating looks at the past, Crash Course World History is totally worth checking out , and there are more YouTube Channels with moments that changed the world if you know where to look. There are even history Tumblr blogs worth following .
Talk about your favorite history videos, web sites and anything else in the comments below – we’ll keep rounding things up together.