“The Histomap: 4000 Years of World History” is the Story of Civilization

Rand McNally, best known for their maps, atlases and globes, published “The Histomap: Four Thousand Years of World History” in 1931. It was created by John B. Sparks, and it originally sold for $1. The map measured 5’2″ tall. It was intended to “[dramatize] the great adventure of mankind.”  It is the story of civilization.

"The Histomap: Four Thousand Years of World History" came in a little green billfold

The colored regions represented the various empires throughout the last 4000 years. The width of the colored areas represent the relative power of their respective empire.

Rand McNally and John B. Sparks "The Histomap of Four Thousand Years of World History"

I am an American man in his early 30s, living in a country that is not yet a quarter millennium old, dwarfed in age to nations that are as old as the Bronze Age. The “Histomap” visually tells the story of empires growing and contracting, snaking through other empires. Some trail off. It is both humbling and empowering to see the rise and fall of civilizations.

It should be noted that Spark’s “Histomap” does not include all of recorded history.  Writing was invented in the 4th millennium BC, 2000 years before the start of this Histomap. Recorded history, in turn, is only a fraction of human history, which extends back to the Paleolithic Age, 2.6 million years ago. That still pales in comparison to Geologic Time, the age of the Earth, which may have begun as early as 4.6 billion years ago during the Hadean Age and coinciding with the birth of the solar system. Here is a chart to put it into perspective.

Perspective on Human History Against the Age of the Universe

Having been published in 1931, the “Histomap” does not include the conclusion of World War II, which drastically changed the global balance of power.

Following the popularity of the “Histomap”, Sparks produced a couple more histomaps, including the “Histomap of Evolution” and the “Histomap of Religion”.

John B. Sparks' "Histomap of Evolution"

The “Histomap of Evolution” is blatantly racist, segregating modern man into distinct races of people. According to Spark’s version of Evolution, the Chinese are as different from the English as a mammal is from an insect.

Via The SlateDavid Rumsey Map Collection.

Tate Srey - Tate Srey is an artist and an engineer. He is a nerd who likes to lift heavy things and put them back down again. He loves to run and swim and build things. He makes his own wine and beer, and dies a little inside when he has to pay more than $5 for draft. He has a natural affection for people with a teacher's spirit-- those who will share their knowledge and experience with others. Some men just want to watch the world learn. Tate can be found on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


  1. melacomes - 07/08/2023 reply

    Histomap measured in ‘wishful thinking’ units. Just another exercise of propaganda and lies

  2. Ruth Fischer - 12/31/2016 reply

    How can I purchase a copy of each map? How large in the font? What are the dimensions?


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