Mapping the Evolution of States and Empires
The bloggers at Coming Anarchy have put together an informative series of posts about the shifting borders of states and empires. There’s a time-lapse animation of the expansion and contraction of Rome and Byzantium, a series of maps for each of Ethiopia, Poland, Armenia , Persia, and Russia. Also, there’s a series of comparative maps on state borders in modern Europe.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I am in favor of the “geographic turn” in international law, in which we as lawyers become more sensitive to issues of space and place, and how our represenations of them affect the rules that we make. And vice versa. Reflecting on his travels through the Caucasus, Northern Iraq, and West Africa, journalist Robert Kaplan noted in his book The Coming Anarchy (from where the blog got its name) that he “develop[ed] a healthy skepticism toward maps, which, I began to realize, create a conceptual barrier that prevents us from comprehending the political crack-up just beginning to occur worldwide.”
For some examples of recent scholarship in law and geography, see, for example, the articles of Hari Osofsky and Tim Zick. Hari blogged about law and geography here. I also have a forthcoming piece in the Oregon Review of International Law on how geographic and cartographic concepts have affected our understanding of self-determination and secession. More on that in another post.
For now, check out the maps!
Hat tip: Catholicgauze