The Map of 20th-century Europe, as Predicted in 1863
The continent would be ruled by ten neat little empires.
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
In a slim volume entitled L'Europe au XXe siècle, published in Paris in 1863, French author Henri Dron predicted the political future for the Old Continent in the coming century. Dron showed himself to be an amateur rather than a connaisseur of geopolitics, by committing the original sin of futurology: assuming that the future will be more sensible, less chaotic than the present.
Dron's future is predictably idealistic. He foresees how the tangle of greater, smaller, older, newly formed and still forming European states of his day will coalesce into a neat collection of ten little empires, each about similar in size, all but one with their capital conveniently somewhere near the middle of the territory. The course of Dron's intra-European borders is noticeably more smooth and regular than the real borders were at that time - or would be afterward.
Dron's choice of capitals is interesting where it deviates from our expectations: Toledo for the Iberian empire, Dresden for the German one and Novgorod for the Russian one. The French futurist is centralist to the degree that he seems to prefer constructing the Polish and Circassian capitals from scratch, just for location's sake.
Vienna, on the border between the German and Greek empires and rather central in Europe as a whole, is the Capital of Europe.
Lisbon, in spite of its eccentric position on the edge of the continent, seems to lay claim to some other elevated status - perhaps capital of the world?
I have very little information on this map, which apparently appeared in the August/September 2010 issue of Le Monde Diplomatique, under the title 'Le temps des utopies' ('The Era of Utopias'). This map was found here on the French website Agora Vox, in an article which mentions that Dron's map (or maybe his entire pamphlet) was refused for publication twice, but fails to explain why.
Strange Maps #491
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(1) The UK still included all of Ireland at the time of Dron's prediction.
(2) Not quite the same area as the present-day Czech Republic, but close.
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