The GDP Histomap

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200 Years of Economic History
Relative Power as told by Real GDP

Data provided by Maddison Project Database, version 2018. Bolt, Jutta, Robert Inklaar, Herman de Jong and Jan Luiten van Zanden (2018), “Rebasing ‘Maddison’: new income comparisons and the shape of long-run economic development”, Maddison Project Working paper 10

The original Histomap

This chart is inspired by John B. Sparks' work, The Histomap, published in 1931. The original work was an attempt to visualize 4000 years of civilization into a set of colorful flows on a five foot (1.5m) tall chart. It was ambitious... but flawed. Daniel Brownstein does a thorough critique of John B. Spark's Histomap on his blog, Musings on Maps.

The GDP Histomap

This chart is less abmitious. Where the original tried to show and explain the march of civilization over millennia, the goal of this new chart is to map out the relative economic power of countries in the past two centuries. And rather than an undefined power measure for the x-axis, the new chart uses Real GDP.

What is GDP? aka Nominal GDP. The sum of the prices of all finished goods and services a country produces. Inflation and the cost of good will increase GDP, though the number of goods is not increasing.

How is Real GDP different? aka GDP PPP (Purchasing Power Parity). This measure controls for inflation and uses the same set of prices for goods and services over time. This measure is better than nominal GDP for comparing countries and is the metric used in the chart.

🛠 Behind the scenes

The chart is generated on-the-fly with vanilla Javascript used to create SVG shapes and text.