Lost in the world of maps!

I don’t know what it is about maps but ever since I published my article Getting Lost In The World of Maps, it has consistently ranked as one of biggest views and so at long last I am creating this follow-on post with more interesting maps to enjoy.

First off, to make sure there is something here for everyone here is a rather groovy looking map where each country is represented by its national flag. It’s an interesting way to look at the world and a reminder of just how diverse and interesting our planet is.

World Map in Flags

World Map in Flags

I don’t know about you, but I have always been interested in maps and even when I was young I used to look at how different places looked like they could fit into each other such as South America into Africa, how mountain ranges and seas like the Himalayas and the Red Sea have come into being by sections of the Earth moving around…. that and the fact that Italy really does look like a leg kicking the ball that is Sicily.  Of course modern science states that this is because billions of years ago all the land mass was concentrated in one big clump that started moving and continues to do so to this day with India moving into Asia, Africa tearing apart into two continents and Britain and the USA moving apart at about 2 cm or 1 inch per year.     Below is a map that shows how the current nation states all fitted together in the Pangea supercontinent. Weren’t we all snug together!

Pangea

Our nations as they were when we were all part of the Pangea Super-continent.

fkMaps are good at not just showing us things such as how to drive to our holiday or to see what the capital of The Upper Volta is (Ouagadougou as I discovered and never forgot since the age of 8) but can be a great and easy way to see simple facts about our planet, country or locality.

World Religions Map

This map demonstrates the dominant religion in each country though of course many countries have countless religions followed by minorities with Muslims in the USA and UK and Christians in Iran and Iraq.

Maps can show how ideas and cultures spread through exploration, conquest or mass-migration.  Interestingly the map below shows how close the links are between religious faiths and writing scripts.

World writing systems

This is a simplified map and doesn’t show how writing styles change or adopt to local circumstances such as Cyrillic which was devised by Saint Cyril.

Just as languages can be invented, so can names and the map below of Europe shows the most popular surnames for each country.  If you live in one of these countries then it is easy to see the links and similarities between them that arise for various historic reasons.  The Scandinavian countries are obviously linked and their names are very similar and familiar to those in the British Isles which in turn are close to those from The Netherlands.  Other similarities can be seen with the Germanic countries which have looser links to Britain and also Scandinavia as well as between Russia and some Balkan nations and the Romance nations have their own linguistic traditions shared between lands such as Italy, Spain and Romania.

Common European Surnames

Map of the most common surnames in each European country.

Leading on from languages and names or more accurately perhaps preceding it are those of accents.  The map below shows the main accents in the continental USA.  Even to a non-American like myself, it is relatively easy to distinguish various different accents.  New York is obviously a highly mixed up accent influenced by global immigration which is different to that in New England whose accent is much more similar to British English than the Pacific or Texan accents.  These days, accents are getting more confused especially with the increasing number of Spanish speakers in large parts of the country.  Other areas of the country have accents that reflect the major role played by German or Scandinavian immigrants.

Accents of the USA

Map of Accents in the United States

The situation in the U.K. is if anything even more complicated with accents changing from village to village or in different parts of the same city.  In the early 1980’s the police were able to trace an anonymous hoax caller connected to a serial killer to within 2 streets of his location!  These days the accents are on the move.  The cockney accent is mutating into an Estuary accent which is subsuming some of the local ones around London and is itself being overtaken by Jafraican which is the term given to how many people speak in a totally fake but apparently cool Jamaican/African/Cockney hybrid.  Other accents that are forecast to expand include the SW England accents and Geordie in N.E England which is taking over some of the other accents in a 150 mile radius.

Accents of the UK

Modern accents are being influenced London accents heard on the TV, some foreign accents such as Australian and Jamaican and others which are perceived as being pleasant or friendly such as Geordie.

These accents are based upon ancient history and culture.  Prior to the Romans 2,000 years ago, Britain was made up of dozens of tribes as shown below.

Pre-Roman Britain

Britain as it was upon the arrival of the Roman Empire

After the Romans left, the country fell apart into different kingdoms which gradually unified.  For much of the time the most important kingdom was Northumbria which shows how the present border between England and Scotland is entirely artificial.

Post Roman Britain

Post Roman Britain

It’s a good job the country became more unified as it was constantly targeted by foreign invaders though their foreignness is only relative as genetically they were mostly the same race.

Post-Roman Invasions of Britain

Post Roman Invasions of Britain

For hundreds and thousands of years Britain was invaded or settled by other Europeans.  Much is known about the long British Occupation of Ireland but less widely known is that for centuries the Irish frequently invaded parts of Britain too which when the Normans arrived caused them to divert their attention across the sea.

Many borders in the world are artificial just like the English/Scottish border and while some use convenient borders such as rivers, seas or mountains, the chances are that if a country has a border that is a straight line and looks like it was drawn by a ruler then it probably was.  Most of these are in Africa and the Middle-East and yet the longest straight line border of them all is the USA-Canadian border.

Look at this map of Egypt below, obviously this was drawn up in the years of empires.  Most of Egypt is in the shape of a block but look at the bottom right corner, here Sudan and Egypt cannot agree on the border.  Sometimes this can be due to minerals, oil, access to deep water ports or local demographics.  In this case the little splodge of “Egypt” below the straight line southern border is not claimed by anyone!  There isn’t much of our planet which has no government or country but this is one of them.  Neither Egypt or Sudan want to claim this bit of land as it would affect historic treaties and agreements for the much more valuable disputed land further east.   If they don’t want it, I’ll have!  Maybe we could create a WordPress nation!

Map of Egypt

Bir Tawil an unclaimed part of our planet.

One last map related to wars before we go onto something else.  In 2011 a historian wrote a book (All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To) on countries and lands where Britain had fought whether invaded, occupied, colonised, protected or liberated.  The map says it all for good and bad.  However of the 22 nations listed below, the map is now out of date as British forces were involved in the defeat of the Islamic Extremists who had taken control of much of Mali.

Countries not invaded by Britain

Countries not invaded by Britain

Many of the place names in the United States either have their names inspired by Native American names or continue to use their original names.  There were hundreds of tribes living in North America before the arrival of white settlers and this map below shows the location of many of them.

Map of Native American tribes

Map of Native American tribes

One country that changed dramatically from the arrival of settlers is that of Australia.  Despite Australia being such a huge place however, 98% of its population live on the coast as shown in this map below.

Where do Australians live?

98% of Australians live on the narrow coastal areas highlighted here.

The values of both the descendants of European settlers and European states though are not all bad.  This map below depicts our racial attitudes.  Almost every western country has very low or almost non-existent levels of racism.  The main and quite strong exception of this being France which stands out as being less friendly than its neighbours.

World Racism Map

World Racism Map

Racism is largely a learned and socially influenced attitude.  Such maps can be used to show almost anything.  The map below shows that while the world may be divided in lots of way, it is almost united in its support for paid maternal leave following the birth of a baby.

Paid Maternal Leave By Country

Paid Maternal Leave By Country

This United Nations Map below illustrates the international levels of literacy.  This important because with basic literacy and mathematical skills, the poor people of those countries will never find jobs or ways to improve their lives monetarily.

World Literacy

Sadly, Africa remains the stand-out area of low levels of literacy.

Maps aren’t just for serious topics or even for educational reasons but they can be fun too.  Look at this map showing the literal translations of Chinese place names for Europe.

Literal Chinese translations for European countries.

Literal Chinese translations for European countries.

One of the most famous transport maps is that of the London Underground.  Over the years the map has been endless copied and this one here has replaced all the stations on the network with musical bands and singers, the idea is it shows how different popular music is related to and inspired by other musical genres.

Musical Tube Map

Musical Tube Map

Many of the worlds maps were first created to aid navigation and exploration.  Even now maps are used for this purpose as the one below shows to highlight modern day ship piracy.

International Shipping Piracy

International Shipping Piracy

Many of the maps above have been based on national borders but these two below show the climate of our planet free from the artificial ideas of nations.

World Temperature Map

World Temperature Map

World Rainfall Map

Interestingly the areas of the world with high temperature are not necessarily always the driest and the coldest are not always the wettest.

The map below doesn’t just show the users of Facebook around the world.  There are obviously hi-tech nations that are dark on this map.  These are places where governments still block the internet and whose citizens are not able to access unbiased news or enjoy proper social freedoms.

Facebook

Internet controls, we’re talking to you Russia and China.

Finally, one last map I only discovered yesterday when getting this blog ready.  Many people know that after WW2 the government of France approached London with the view of joining with Britain.  Less well known is that since WW2 there have been groups within both the USA and UK with views of joining the 2 countries back together in a more formal way than what they already seem to be anyway.  Original plans involved Britain being divided into 6 separate states often based upon historic kingdoms.  Northern Ireland would join with the Irish Republic to become a 7th state.  Obviously despite being such close and historic allies such a plan would have to overcome huge difficulties which is probably why it hasn’t got very far but here is the map anyway with the proposed state capitals.

UK and USA

If history really does go round in circles then maybe this will happen one day. (Map originally from strangemaps.wordpress.com)

I hope that everyone has enjoyed this new addition to the world of maps!

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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16 Responses to Lost in the world of maps!

  1. merrildsmith says:

    Interesting, as always Stephen! There’s so much information in these maps. I loved the literal translations of Chinese place names in Europe. 🙂
    I live in southern New Jersey almost directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. There’s a distinct Philadelphia/S. Jersey accent, not on the map here, and there is also an extreme S. Jersey rural accent. Southern New Jersey is much different from mid-and northern New Jersey, near New York. And the western and central areas of Pennsylvania are much different than the eastern areas around Philadelphia. The place names in this area are a mixture of English (nearby towns, Woodbury, Runnemede), Welsh (Bala Cynwood), and Native American (Manayunk, Wissahickon), Swedish, and Dutch (Schuylkill).
    OK. Time for me to get to work!

    Like

    • Thank-you! Yes those Chinese translations are very interesting. It makes you wonder how they got some of them.

      I am always interested in accents and really enjoying hearing them and working out where their influences came from. The first time I watched the film ‘Fargo’ I had never heard American accents like it but then when I found out where many of the people there had originated from it made perfect sense.

      I guess the map couldn’t possibly show all the accents. It’s interesting how some of the accents in the NorthEast United States and parts of Canada sound so similar to some British accents and yet other areas of both countries have accents that hardly bare much semblance to the official pronunciations.

      Good luck with your work, I have to get back to mine or rather get started with it! Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  2. JF says:

    Thank you for the wealth of information and terrific illustrations of history, geography, diversity of mankind. Enjoyed your post very much.

    Like

  3. Hmm, I see Gibraltar doesn’t get it’s own flag on the flag map, sulk sulk. In fact on all of them it is treated as part of Spain, although places like the Vat City and Andorra are highlighted.

    Amazing how many countries Britain invaded, occupied, colonised etc. That was a real surprise, even though I adore my historical Atlas.

    I didn’t like the idea of Newcastle being the capital of Northumbria however. Should be York. Much older and prettier, and Yks is the largest part of Northumbria anyway.

    Like

    • Yes, Gibraltar is obviously missing and Monaco too. It is a shame the resolution is not better as its hard to see if Lichenstein and one or two others aren’t clear but other tiny places are obviously there.

      I think some of the invasions are a little overstated such as Romania which suffered from the odd RAF bombing in WW2 and special forces operations only because part of the country was occupied by the Nazis.

      Maybe Durham could be the capital as compromise 🙂 I suppose strictly speaking it should be Bamburgh but the little village is probably not up to it any more. Anyone in Washington D.C. would be wonderful what on earth we are talking about.

      I hope things have calmed down a bit in Gibraltar at least on the sea if not the land crossing.

      Like

  4. Diane Tibert says:

    Wonderful! I love maps too. And I think I spent far too much time reading these maps; now I’m behind in my work.

    Maps are so interesting; they can show us the big picture with just a glance. I have always admired and tried to read more into the of Pangea. Thanks for finding and sharing these maps.

    Now…back to work.

    Like

    • Sorry for disrupting your work. I have an impending deadline in an hour or so but the maps were too good to miss out on.

      It’s always interesting looking at maps and seeing how they relate to Pangea. I’ve never found one that made it so easy to see how it all pieced together though.

      Have a nice day Diane.

      Like

  5. It’s interesting you mentioned accents. I live in Middlesbrough, which was always in North Yorkshire until it got put in Teesside around 10 years ago. So, although we live in Teesside we have a North Yorkshire accent, not a Teesside one, but technically, we’re still in North Yorkshire so it’s okay, if a little confusing. People in North Teesside have a completely different accent to those of us in the south. We’ll cling on to it for as long as we can.

    Really good post.

    Like

  6. gn0mel0ver says:

    Oh, maps… Um, we are not friends, maps and I. I am hopeless with directions. Seriously, I went outside two nights ago and pointed out the beautiful North Star to my children. My husband had to point out I was actually pointing to an object in the South. Isn’t that the same thing?

    On my first flight I kept looking for the lines that divided the states. Yep!

    But I will concede to their beauty and I can do that timed name all of the countries trivia pnline game in record time. Just don’t ask me where any of them actually are. ; )

    Jenni

    Like

  7. My web browser almost gave up loading the webpage, but it was certainly worth it! In particular, I had no idea (but should have guessed) that British involvement directly affected so many countries.

    Like

  8. Wonderful post Stephen. I am not exaggerating when I say that I found every one of these maps interesting and educational. Great compilation. Thanks very much for pulling it all together. ~James

    Like

  9. Pingback: It’s that time again… 2014 blogging in review | Stephen Liddell

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  11. Pingback: Still Lost In The World Of Maps | Stephen Liddell

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