Our May Map of the Month is this 1930s “Map of the World with Flags of the Leading Nations”. It shows the various complicated international borders of the interwar period as well as illustrations of the flags of the world’s leading nations and a plethora of related information on its reverse side.
The interwar period was a period of time between the first and second World Wars that is generally regarded as lasting from 1918-1939. It was a time of drastic social, political, and economic change, starting with the Roaring 20s and the growth of Communism and ending with the Great Depression and the rise of several dictators leading into World War II. Because of its relative brevity and the way it was sandwiched between two world-altering wars, the interwar period experienced several very distinct political developments, many of which are depicted on this map.
One of the most visually striking aspects of this map is the collection of flag illustrations in its bottom margin. Although this copy’s exact publication date is unknown, several editions of this map were published throughout the 1930s, resulting in a group of flags and leading nations that is quite unique. It includes flags that existed only for a short period of time, such as the flag of Nazi Germany, as well as flags and nation names that were changed in the years after this map’s publication, including the flags of Egypt, China, and the nation of Siam (modern Thailand) among others. It also provides insight into the political situation of the interwar years and which of the world’s nations were influential at a global level prior to the second World War. The presence of the Nazi flag in particualr indicates that Hitler had indeed risen to power and was recognized as politically legitmate at this time but had yet to begin expanding his area of control through invasion or outright warfare.
In addition to the political insight provided by the flags and names of leading nations at this time, this map also provides a detailed view of the complicated international borders and territories of the interwar period. The borders of the European nations are notably different from both those that existed during World War I and the modern borders of the region. Austria and Hungary were newly divided, but states like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia (both dissolved in the 1990s) still existed at this point and are shown on the map. The territories controlled by Germany and Poland are both larger and differ in shape and placement from those of the present. There are also several states that simply did not exist at this time, from the nations that were created in the dissolution of Yugoslavia like Croatia and North Macedonia to those that gained independence after the U.S.S.R. dissolved, such as Belarus and Ukraine. Although these nations that were part of the Soviet Union are not depicted independently on this map, many of their capital or influential cities like Kyiv and Odessa are marked.
The nations and borders of Africa as shown on this map are also quite different from the modern borders. The most notable aspect of this depiction of Africa is the dominating presence of colonial powers like France, Belgium, and Italy among others. These European controlled territories came as a result of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th-early 20th centuries wherein several European nations invaded and colonized a vast majority of the African continent. Although some states like Nigeria retained independence, the European powers controlled most of the continent and governed the lands and people with infamous brutality throughout World War I, the interwar period, and World War II. It was not until the conclusion of World War II that the decades-long process of decolonization began in Africa, and throughout the following years over 50 states gained their independence from the colonial nations.
The map’s reverse provides more information about the global political situation as well as global demographics and geographic knowledge at this time. It provides several charts and lists, including a list of “Principal Cities of the World” that marks the populations of various capital cities and other large or influential cities around the globe. The other provided lists include things like “Principal Islands of the World”, “Highest Mountains of the World”, and “Largest Rivers and Canals of the World”. There is also a section of this information dedicated to documenting the religious denominations of the United States and the “Principal Religions of the World”, both of which highlight the religious diversity of the world and how much religious diversity has since developed in the United States.
We hope you enjoyed our May Map of the Month! To request a high resolution scan of this map or to schedule an appointment to view the collection in person, please submit a service request to the Map and Geospatial Hub. Keep an eye out for our June Map of the Month and follow us on Facebook for all Map and Geospatial Hub updates!
- Kelsey Kerley, Map and GIS Assistant