Historical Map: Characteristics, What It Is For, Examples

A historical map is a type of map that represents those places, phenomena or events that existed in a time prior to the date the map was made.

Old maps should not be confused with historical maps. An old map was made in the past and can no longer be used for the purpose for which it was made, as it is an outdated representation. Instead, historical maps are made in the present but represent things from the past.

Historical maps are intended to recreate a political or geographical situation from the past in order to understand the history of a certain geography, culture or region. Due to this, maps of this type are frequently used by teachers in classrooms, since it allows them to optimize the understanding of an event through cartography.

For example, if a teacher is teaching classes on the ancient Roman Empire, he can use a historical map to show his students the territories that were under the rule of this culture.

Broadly speaking, historical maps show a region of the world as it was in times past. Likewise, they can be focused on offering certain information about the mapped area, such as exploration routes, trade routes, decrease or increase of an empire, changes in the limits, among other aspects.

Characteristics of historical maps

– Historical maps are characterized by using a special code, made up of signs and symbols. Generally, these symbols do not have a specific regulation of use, so their code will be subject to the style of whoever elaborates them.

– Historical maps are studied by historical cartography; a discipline that comes from cartography and that is dedicated to the analysis of historical events that occurred in certain geographies.

– These maps can have a political, geographical, economic, cultural and even patriotic purpose, since they allow certain citizens to develop empathy for the territorial unit that comprises their nation.

– It is believed that these maps began to be used from 1807, when the historian Jean-François Champollion presented to the Academy of Grenoble the recreation of a map of Ancient Egypt. After this, the use of historical maps increased with the arrival of the 20th century and today they are used in all parts of the world and for various reasons.

What is a historical map for?

– First, it is important to determine the title of the map, since this will indicate the area that was represented together with its possible date.

– Then, the geographic space that was represented must be established; that is, to locate the continent, states, regions, seas, among others.

– Likewise, the designated places must be distinguished, establishing the political names and the events that happened there.

– The historical period represented on the map must be verified, determining the century or year to which it corresponds.

– Subsequently, the researcher must read and interpret the symbolism of the map in order to understand the historical content. For this, those who study the map have to learn about the use of cartographic symbols (that is, know what this or that sign drawn on the map means, such as a rectangle or circle).

– If necessary, the researcher can take into account the chronological order in which the events occurred.

Examples of historical maps

Historical map of Mexico

A historical map of Mexico, for example, could be a choropleth; that is, a thematic map whose regions are colored in different ways to indicate a particular element or characteristic.

In it, the location of the different pre-Hispanic civilizations that previously inhabited the Mexica territory is delimited; The chronological location of the different communities could also be indicated.

Historical map of Ecuador

A historical map of Ecuador could be composed of the indigenous communities that inhabited the country at the beginning of the 20th century; the location of these communities would be determined on this map and the language used by each of them could be added.

This type of information is very striking for ethnologists, who in this way can learn about the different cultures that inhabited the Ecuadorian territory at the beginning of the 20th century and establish a comparison with current indigenous communities.

Through this map, researchers can ask questions such as: during that time period, did any tribes mobilize? Did they migrate to cities? How many of them still exist today? Among other.

Historical map of Colombia

Researchers interested in the Colombian territory may realize that, due to its geography, the soil of this region is very rich in minerals and hydrocarbons. A historical map of Colombia could consist of determining the location of the minerals that were worked by the natives before the Spanish conquest.

A historical map could also be made where the main mines installed by the Spanish in the mid-1500s with the aim of extracting gold, emeralds and quartz from Colombian soil are delimited.

Historical map of Spain

A historical map of Spain can delimit, for example, the geographical and cultural extension of the Iberian Peninsula during the Muslim occupation.

Likewise, it can also cover the different languages ​​spoken in Spain during the seventeenth century, specifying the location of each of them. This type of map is of considerable interest to both historians and linguists.


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