Historical Chart of Mankind – A Visual Record Of Man’s Racial, National and Cultural Progress
The original 1937 edition of Dr. Gluckmann’s pioneering visualization of human history.
This is the first edition of Dr. Arnold Gluckmann’s massive chart of human history, complete with its original envelope.
Mark Twain once said, “History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme,” and nowhere is this made as palpable as in this visualization of humanity’s progress from prehistory until modern times. Being the original 1937 edition (reprints were issued in subsequent decades), this chart was offered as a supplement to the book series Universal World History edited by John Alexander Hammerton.
Gluckman’s idea of building an elongated chart that could contain so much of human history in a parallel development graph was not just innovative but reveals a growing awareness that the euro-centrism of the preceding centuries needed to be replaced with a broader, more global outlook.
The chronology of this elongated chart spans from around 4000 BC at the bottom of the chart until roughly 1925 at the top. Along the edge, we can see that from 1750 forward, we are moving in increments of 25 years and that there is a final increment upon which the year 1950 has been noted. Including that last increment pointing into the future also allows some of the most recent developments at the time to be included at the top of the map. These current events include decisive episodes such as the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the dissolution of the caliphate in 1924; the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936; Mussolini’s continued attempt to subjugate Ethiopia in the Second Italo-Ehtiopian War (1935-36); the emergence of National-socialism in Germany in 1933; and Mahatma Gandhi’s world-changing concept of Passive Resistance to British colonial rule (1920-24).
To most students of history, it will not be surprising that a chart compiled in the 1930s is laced with ethnocentric bias. That such implicit racism is more evident to us today is somewhat ironic, as the compilers deliberately sought to provide a more balanced (i.e. less racist) view of humanity’s development than was the norm at the time. Thus, we find that certain regions – Asia in particular – are relatively well-represented in Gluckman’s rendition of the human story. The representation of other cultures and peoples than those associated with Judeo-Christian Europe can, for example, be found in the form of small vignettes and inset maps throughout the chart. Nevertheless, despite this endeavor towards more inclusiveness, there can be little doubt that most of what is shaping history in this chart consists of socio-economic, political, and technological advancements that can be laid at the feet of Western Civilization.
The inset maps, in particular, highlight the narrative’s restricted focus. Looking at which empires and entities have merited the insertion of a map, we note that the inclusions hinge on Western notions of historical progression. From the bottom, we find smaller insets denoting the ancient cultures that helped shape our civilization before it even was one. Our roots, in the form of Ancient Egypt, the first Mesopotamian civilizations, and the Assyrian Empire, have all been included below the more directly formative periods in European history, such as Greek civilization, the Hellenism promulgated by Alexander the Great, and of course, the decisive impact of the Roman Empire.
The map insets are not limited to Eurocentric civilizations only, however. Non-European maps include the Asoka Empire in India, the Empire of Genghis Khan, and the Ottoman Empire. Other maps reveal European civilization’s growing global impact from the 16th century forward. A good example is the inset map of North America, as it was subdivided following the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).
One might look at this chart today and think it reflects a bigoted and hegemonic worldview. However, the fact is that the best way to change people’s perception of the present has always been to provide them with a deeper knowledge of the past. History is a toolbox, and the progression towards more balanced historical views on ethnicity, power, and oppression hinges on providing the general public with a broader outlook on history, as has been attempted here. Ultimately, Gluckman and his team created something precious with this chart: a historical symphony, which, even during some of humanity’s darkest hours, sings of better times to come.
This elongated chart was originally published in 1937 as a supplement to the Universal World History book series edited by John Alexander Hammerton. A reprint was issued in 1947 and again in the 1950s.
The OCLC lists at least eight institutional holdings of the original 1937 edition (nos. 6882146; 978084278; 221388633), including copies at the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the Newberry in Chicago. An additional example is held by the David Rumsey Map Collection (List No. 15121.001). When this chart appears on the open market, it is mainly in the form of later reprints.
Comes with the original envelope. Not the 1950s reprint! Minor discoloration, some small corner fold separations, but still solid and no significant loss.
Rumsey 15121.000, BnF ark:/12148/btv1b53195489v.