Watch the History of the World Unfold on an Animated Map: From 200,000 BCE to Today

"Where are you from?" a character at one point asks Babe, the hapless protagonist of the Firesign Theatre's classic comedy album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All. "Nairobi, ma'am," Babe replies. "Isn't everybody?" Like most of that psychedelic radio troupe's pieces of apparent nonsense, that memorable line contains a truth: trace human history back far enough and you inevitably end up in east Africa, a point illustrated in reverse by the video above, "A History of the World: Every Year," which traces the march of humanity between 200,000 BCE and the modern day.

To a dramatic soundtrack which opens and closes with the music of Hans Zimmer, video creator Ollie Bye charts mankind's progress out of Africa and, ultimately, into every corner of all the continents of the world.




Real, documented settlements, cities, empires, and entire civilizations rise and fall as they would in a computer game, with a constantly updated global population count and list of the civilizations active in the current year as well as occasional notes about politics and diplomacy, society and culture, and inventions and discoveries.

All that happens in under 20 minutes, a pretty swift clip, though not until the very end does the world take the political shape we know today, including even the late latecomer to civilization that is the United States of America. Bye's many other videos tend to focus on the history of other parts of the world, such as India, the British Isles, and that cradle of our species, the African continent, all of which we can now develop first-hand familiarity with in this age of unprecedented human mobility. Though the condition itself takes the question "Where are you from?" to a degree of complication unknown not only millennia but also centuries and even decades ago, at least now you have a snappy answer at the ready.

Related Content:

The History of Civilization Mapped in 13 Minutes: 5000 BC to 2014 AD

Take Big History: A Free Short Course on 13.8 Billion Years of History, Funded by Bill Gates

The History of the World in 46 Lectures From Columbia University

The History of the World in 20 Odd Minutes

A Crash Course in World History

5-Minute Animation Maps 2,600 Years of Western Cultural History

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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Comments (8)
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  • FakeHistory says:

    Whoever made this erased the Ottoman and Persian empire. Horrible event logging also you are better off watching the history channel or reading National Geographic at least they are doing their homework and validating facts.

  • Sam J says:

    If you believe it’s that bad then YOU should create something better.
    And “I” never believe anything that is anonymously written because if you can not be man enough to say who you are and state your credentials then you are evidently just a nay-sayer blabbing away with your negativity. Impressed with your own importance.

  • Patrick Stack says:

    Some inaccuracies I’ve noticed are the complete absence of anything in Ireland until the Christian era despite the Boyne Valley monuments (Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth) predating the pyramids of Egypt!
    Also, Ireland gained independence from Britain in 1922, and left the Commonwealth in 1949, but is still coloured pink as if it were a colony of Britain, which it is not.

  • Steve P says:

    This is a wonderful animation and I’ve learned a lot.
    It may not be 100% complete nor accurate, but I can see a lot of work went in to it. I will be sending a link to my son’s teacher.

  • Jorge says:

    It must be tough to make such an impressive resource and then have to read obtuse criticisms like this

  • David says:

    Some inaccuracies in the middle east:
    Canaanites – well, some may say that Hebrews are leftover of the retreating Egyptians. This way or another, the Hebrew kingdom lasted between -1006 and -650 or so. Which is a bit missing.
    Also missed the Hashmonite kingdom. about 130BCE to King Herod, around 6BCE.
    The great revolt 66CE to 70CE.

  • Stacy Easter says:

    You forgot quiet a few events that took out the number of people on earth…..like the flood.

  • Colin Fulton says:

    As others have commented there are some glaring errors in this animation. The diaspora out of Africa happened in two waves not one as suggested also, this has humans not arriving in Australia until 39,000 BCE when it is definitely proven that humans arrived in Australia 60,000 BCE and may have even been as much as 70,000 BCE or earlier.
    Even with the errors it is still an interesting exercise and must have taken a long time to do.

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