This amazing video showing the changes in the map of Europe for the last 1,013 years was posted a year ago at LiveLeak (here is the original post), and I can’t believe I didn’t know about it until now. This is one of those great tools of history teaching that only modern computers and the Internet can provide. I put this in the same category as the animated version of the Bayeaux tapestry.
As the colors flicker and fly by on this map, you can see spurts of activity that correspond with some of the big events in European history–the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the Hundred Years’ War, the unification of Germany and Italy in the 1860s and 1870s, the two world wars and the fall of Communism. You could pause this video at any point and talk about what was going on at that time.
Has Europe become more “stable” now than in its previous history? Most people think so, but don’t forget that Europe was the birthplace of three colossal world wars between 1793 and 1945 (I’m counting the French Revolution and Napoleonic conflicts as a world war, which clearly they were; you could also go back farther and count the Seven Years War/French and Indian War as a world war). After 1815, when Napoleon was defeated, statesmen confidently predicted that the era of mega-conflict in Europe was permanently over. That, of course, ended in 1914. Even since the fall of Communism we have seen conflict in Europe, such as the various Balkan wars of the 1990s. Is Europe now more stable? We can hope, but only time will tell what future events will change this map.