21 Maps That Will Change How You Think About Britain

From 5,500BC to how you commute to work today.

1. Britain, as it looked in 5,500BC.

The Prehistoric Society / Via log.doggerland.net

At the end of the last Ice Age, Britain was joined by a land bridge to northern Europe.

2. The rocks of Britain.

Stanford’s Geological Atlas / Via imgur.com

The grey bits in the middle, north-east England and south Wales are the coal fields.

3. Britain, as the ancient Romans thought it looked.

British Library / Via bl.uk

Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek scholar who lived in the second century AD, wrote a book describing the world. This is a medieval depiction of the British Isles based on Ptolemy’s method, including the strange eastward projection of Scotland.

4. Britain, as it actually was divided up under Roman rule.

Longman’s, Green & Co / Via imgur.com

5. The native tribes of Roman Britain.

“Brittain 410”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Their names are in large italics: Iceni, Brigantes, Coritani and so on. The Iceni were Boudicca’s tribe, who led a rebellion against the empire.

6. Where Roman coins have been found in Britain.

“All Roman coins 1997 - 2010 (2)” by Portable Antiquities Scheme from London, England - All Roman coins 1997 - 2010Uploaded by Victuallers. Licensed under CC BY http://2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

7. The Roman road network in Britain.

The Iter Britanniarum, The Antonine Itinerary in Britain / Creative Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

8. How Roman rule crumbled in Britain.

End.of.Roman.rule.in.Britain.383.410” by Notuncurious, Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

As the empire slowly retreated in the fifth century AD, Roman Britain came under attack from the west, east and north.

9. The post-Roman peoples of Britain.

“Britain peoples circa 600” by User:Hel-hama - Vectorization of File:Britain peoples circa 600.png drawn by User:IMeowbotborder data from CIA, people locations from The Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1926 edition, with clarifications supp / Via en.wikipedia.org

10. The bits of Britain ruled by Vikings in the 9th century.

“DanelawEngland” by S. R. Gardiner - A School Atlas Of English History, Longmans, Green. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

The light blue section is where the Danes – a Germanic tribe, who lived roughly in what is now Denmark, also known as Norsemen and Vikings – ruled Britain from about the 8th century to the 12th. This is when the poem Beowulf was written, by an Anglo-Saxon poet, about a great king of the Danes.

11. What Britain thought it looked like in the 13th century.

British Library / Via bl.uk

Great Britain as drawn by Matthew Paris in 1250 AD, a monk and historian who lived in St Alban’s.

12. A Dutch map of Britain in the 17th century.

National Archives and Royal Library of the Netherlands / Via dutchgenealogy.nl

13. The population density of Britain, before and after the Industrial Revolution.

Philips’ New Historical Atlas for Students By Ramsay Muir / Via culturalresources.com

14. All the land that the British Empire held.

“British Empire Anachronous 4”. Licensed under CC BY-SA http://3.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Not all at once, we should add. The “first empire”, which held large areas of land in North America and the Caribbean, ended with the American revolution in 1776. The “second empire” was built in the 19th century, based on British naval power, and included huge parts of Africa and south-east Asia.

(Note: It also includes, in light pink, the areas which Britain occupied during the Second World War, which most people wouldn’t call part of the British Empire. See here for the full breakdown.)

15. These are the countries which British troops have never invaded.

Imgur / Via imgur.com

According to Stuart Laycock’s book All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To, of the 193 countries which are currently UN member states, Britain has at one stage or another invaded 171, or more than 90%. (The definition of “invaded” may be a bit liberal, admittedly.)

16. The Battle of Britain.

Military History Monthly / Via military-history.org

The orange lines are the radar defences; you can also see where British and German squadrons were based.

17. Here’s what you’re facing when you stand on the coast of Britain and Ireland.

Reddit / TheWinterKing / Via reddit.com

Inspired by a similar map showing what you’re facing looking east and west from the Americas.

18. Britain’s rudest place names.

Strumpshaw, Tincleton & Giggleswick / Via stghq.com

This is a close-up of the East Anglia bit. The full version of this here.

19. Every train line in Britain.

National Rail / Project Mapping / Via nationalrail.co.uk

20. How Britons commute to work.

DA Smith / UCL / Via visual.ly

Red is public transport, blue is car, green (if you can see any) is walking or cycling.

21. Where people feel English or British.

Alasdair Gunn - DeviantArt / Via alasdairgunn.deviantart.com

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Tom Chivers is a science writer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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