By Erin M. Hartshorn
Copyright © 2010, Erin M. Hartshorn, All Rights Reserved
This Website is meant to be used as an online companion to a wall chart of world history, where one can look across parallel timelines and see what was occurring at different places around the globe at the same time. In this review, however, I will discuss this website as a standalone creation, a tool for looking graphically at historical developments.
The site is organized as a set of master buttons on the left, a center information area, and a right sidebar which alternates between links to more information and short articles. Additional buttons on the bottom of the page offer access to details about historical figures. They are labeled "Index," "Science," "Culture," "Religion," "Politics," and "Book Text." The left buttons are: "Options," "People," "History," "Events," "Maps," and "?". Both left and bottom buttons include one for hard copy; that's a shortcut for ordering the aforementioned wall chart.
The best way to explain the use of the website is to give an example. If you select "History" from the buttons on the left, the right sidebar displays a selection of historical periods. When you choose a period, the center page becomes an image of the World History Chart with the timelines for various areas and cultures. For example, if you choose "500 to 1000" (A.D.), you see the Huari Empire in Peru, the Frankish kingdoms under the Merovingians, the East Roman Empire (which this treats as separate from and preceding the Byzantine Empire rather than a continuous line), elected Caliphs in Mecca, the Hunnish invasion of India, the Sui dynasty in China, Buddhism introduced to Japan, and the kingdom of Ghana -- and that's all on the early end of that time range.
Any words in blue are hypertext links that will open explanatory text in the right sidebar. Alternatively, there is a link at the top of the page -- "Book Text: The Middle Ages" -- that opens a list of topics that have articles, such as "Britain: From King Arthur to William of Normandy" and "China: Sui, Tang and Sung China." (All text is written by Frank E. Smitha. He holds a B.A. in history and has studied the subject extensively on his own.)
Where selecting a timeline on the right in "History" gives major civilizations across geographical and political boundaries, doing the same for "People" shows just what you would expect -- major people who lived at the same time, color-coded by which group (science, culture, religion, or politics) they fall into, with the buttons at the bottom of the screen as a key. Thus, for example, you have the Chinese poet Po Chu-i (772-846) in blue, Charlemagne (742-814) in pink (salmon?), and Al-Karismi (c. 778-c. 850) the Arab mathematician in green. Clicking any of the names opens a short biography in the right sidebar.
The shortcut buttons on the bottom of the page do not provide quite the same access to the information, but each involves a specific group of people. "Scientists" has timelines for two separate time periods, 500 B.C. to A.D. 1400, and 1400 to present. "Religion" provides links alphabetically to different religious figures included in the main timelines. "Politics" provides lifelines from 1450 to 1980 (persons still alive are not included). Once again, clicking a name opens a biography in the right sidebar.
The "Culture" shortcut is actually three separate shortcuts: "artists," "musicians," and "writers." The writers given include 130 people from 1200 to 1900, with the note: "A complete list of important writers includes hundreds of names -- too many for a meaningful synchronoptic display. The 130 writers and poets displayed here have been selected for their enduring importance." The short biography of each writer displayed in the right sidebar is accompanied by a link to an off-site biography that goes further in-depth. Some of these links have text of the authors' writings, some do not.
The "Events" button on the left brings up specific time blocks in the right sidebar. Clicking on a time period -- for example, 1931-38 -- changes the center to a timeline by year of major events in that time period, including political (President Roosevelt introduces 'New Deal'), artistic (Pearl Buck writes The Good Earth), and scientific (Severe famine in USSR; W. H. Carothers synthesizes nylon). Events only cover from 1760 to the present, and obviously some selection of facts has been necessary to fit into the format given.
"Maps" is the simplest button to understand -- for each item presented, there is a map, some with associated text links. Examples of maps include Mongol Empires, Rome + Han China, and Magna Graecia. The maps are world maps and show the locations of some other empires and civilizations at the same time.
Overall, this site is a good way to get an overview of what the world looked like in a specific time frame -- what events happened about the same time, who was alive contemporaneously, what political entities might be rising and falling independently. The creator refers to this as synchronoptical: "seeing at the same time, or more accurately parallel views." If you want to have a Viking ship get swept out to sea and wind up somewhere else, this is a good source to figure out what the lost sailors might encounter. It is not, however, a good source for in-depth research of a specific time or place, such as all of the people of note who lived at a particular time. This is a good first step for research, but the site should probably not be used as a sole source of information.
Visit the website here: http://www.hyperhistory.com/online_n2/History_n2/a.html