September 16, 2013 2:04 pm
The most recent millennium of European political history was wrought with war and conquest. Borders shifted; empires rose and fell. In the video above we see Europe’s evolution from 1000 A.D. to the modern era, a three-and-a-half minute crash course in modern European history, all set against that song from Inception that everyone loves.
Update: Frank Reed, who’s the creator and head cartographer of Centennia Historical Atlas, got in touch with us to say that this top video is actually an un-authorized video capture from his software—which he describes as ”a detailed guide to the history of Europe and the Middle East from the year 1000 to the present including maps and map animation as its central feature.” It’s a “dynamic atlas” that features these sort of time-lapsed maps—in the actual software, you can zoom in to greater detail and down to a time frame of a tenth of year, or zoom out to the continent level seen here. (Which is to say, there’s a lot more where this came from.)
Where the Europe we know today is made up of a number of large, relatively stable states, that was not always the case. Look to the central European region, where what is now Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and others was fragmented into myriad tiny regions.
That trend toward smaller, independent political states carried over from the preceding millennium. Here’s a map showing a longer period of time, from 1 A.D. to 2000 A.D., made using maps from Euratlas. At the beginning of the common era, Europe was dominated by the Roman Empire. You can see the fragmentation beginning, starting around 400 A.D.
More from Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.