Skip to content

Hammond Historical World Atlas

2011 June 17

File this one under “stuff you should own.” Assuming you share some of my interest in history and/or cartography, at any rate.

Cover of 1991 Hammond Historical World Atlas

Volumes One and Two have the same cover art

I absolutely love love love my two-volume Historical World Atlas set from 1991. I actually acquired it just a few years ago from my mother, while she was doing some “weeding out” of her own library; from the Newsweek logo on the cover I assume it must have been some sort of subscriber freebie originally. At the time I was more interested in other things, like discovering Marvel comics; nowadays I’m fascinated by just a standard road atlas.

And this thing, meanwhile, is just pure awesome. Hammond produces good maps; I have a fantastic hardcover world atlas also published by them. Hammond itself seems to be a division of some German conglomerate and lacking a web site of its own, but they are still publishing the Historical World Atlas so far as I can tell. So by all means grab one of your own.

For now I’ll post just a few examples from this treasure trove, “excerpted for review purposes.”

Map of U.S. industry, c. 1980

click to view larger scan

I don’t know if other editions of the atlas are divided into two volumes; in this case Volume One is, somewhat counterintuitively, basically world history from World War II to the present, and North American history; Volume Two is world history from late prehistory to 1991. Above is a map from Volume One which I referred to in the notes for my “SimIowa” post.

Sample city map from Hammond Historical World Atlas

This looks familiar...

This one, also from Volume One, is rather novel: a sort of generic late 20th century American city. Volume One includes a ton of other stuff, of course. Voyages of exploration, early colonial empires, Civil War battles, state results in every presidential election through 1988, etc., etc. Here’s one more goody, of particular interest for residents of northern Ohio:

Competing territorial claims by American states

Astonishingly, all of his was resolved pretty amicably

Clevelanders, at least, will probably have some vague notion of the area’s association with a “western reserve,” still celebrated (following alumni uproar) in the name of Case Western Reserve University. And particularly well-informed Clevelanders will know that the northern section of what became Ohio was part of Connecticut’s “western reserve.” But how many know that Cleveland, Toledo and indeed the whole state were also included in claims of New York and Virginia? This map is just fascinating, both for the historical content it depicts and for its approach to representing this overlapping mess in just two dimensions.

Volume One is really my favorite of the two, though, covering as it does such a range of exotic places and times. Here’s a good example, depicting empires of Eurasia not-quite two millennia ago:


Unsurprisingly, this situation offered great opportunities for middlemen, at least for a while

And, one more fascinating little gem:

Poland is partitioned out of existence, in three easy steps

Chomp, chomp chomp

Know anything about the Partition of Poland? Well, here’s how it worked from a cartographic perspective. Step by step, Poland is reduced from a sprawling power in 1629 as Sweden, Russia, Prussia and Austria take a series of big bites and, by 1795, have eaten the whole thing! (Burp.)

Maps seldom tell the entire story, but by the same token it’s often difficult to appreciate the entire story without a good map.

Comments are closed.