Maps that changed the world

Posted to Maps  |  Nathan Yau

Peter Barber, head of Map Collections at the British Library reports for the The Daily Mail ten of the greatest maps that changed the world. The number one listed (above) is Be On Guard! from 1921:

The infant USSR was threatened with invasion, famine and social unrest. To counter this, brilliant designers such as Dimitri Moor were employed to create pro-Bolshevik propaganda.

Using a map of European Russia and its neighbours, Moor’s image of a heroic Bolshevik guard defeating the invading ‘Whites’ helped define the Soviet Union in the Russian popular imagination.

Others include Google Earth, Charles Booth’s map of London poverty, and the earliest known Chinese terrestrial globe from 1623.

[via @krees]


  • Awesome collection of maps save the fact that it was clearly missing Bucky’s Dymaxion Map Projection from the list.

  • Cool maps – except for the commie propaganda. I don’t understand why that one made the list, and definitely not more important than things like the first globe ever and google earth. Damn soviets and their propaganda.

  • It’s a crime that John Snow’s map of cholera deaths is not included here.

    • The article doesn’t rank them in order of importance, just lists ten. It’s an article written to attract people to the British Library’s exhibition (which is brilliant, if a little Eurocentric and art focused) so includes a variety of maps, some well known, other less so to interest the reader enough to want to find out more.

      I completely agree Snow’s map is one of the most important maps made because of what it started, but the list isn’t definitive and doesn’t claim to be. The cynic in me says Booth’s map is listed instead of Snow’s because the BL are selling the former’s work in their gift shop.

      I recommend anyone in London go to the exhibition for some stunningly detailed maps (and some huge ones too). I particularly liked the infographic nature of this one:


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