Archive for the 'War & Security' Category

Mondays with Minard: Cotton and Wool Comparisons

During the Civil War, the Confederacy attempted to use “Cotton Diplomacy” to force Europe’s major industrial nations to enter the war.  The strategy was simple–British and French textile mills depended on Southern cotton, and if that cotton was cut off because of the war, it would force the European powers to intervene in the conflict to save their domestic industries.  The strategy failed, of course, in spite of the near elimination of Southern cotton from the international market during the war.  Today’s map gives a hint as to why.

The map above is a curious comparative map of the quantities of cotton and wool imported to Europe in 1858 and 1861.  Blue represents cotton and wool from the United States, the orange from British territories in South Asia, and brown from the Levant (the East Mediterranean).  Pink represents cotton and wool imported to Britain that was subsequently re-exported to Europe.  There is also a small sliver of imports from Brazil, also in a light blue, though the original color may have faded.  One millimeter represents 5,000 tons of cotton or wool.  Click here or on the picture above to see the map enlarged.

In 1861, the Union had not yet implemented its wartime blockade of the South, and cotton and wool could still be exported.  Nevertheless, the British were facing continuous demand and worried about the stability of their suppliers.  As such, they ramped up production of cotton in India and elsewhere in South Asia, clearly visible on the map. 

When the South eventually was fully blockaded, it was this South Asian source of cotton, as well as additional new production, that kept Continental textile mills in operation and prevented Cotton Diplomacy from succeeding.  In fact, in 1861, re-exports of cotton and wool from Britain to the Continent actually increased. 

Minard also includes a line chart of cotton and wool production and imports over 30 years.  This chart is interesting in its own right, as it shows how the Industrial Revolution and the Cotton Gin dramatically increased the demand for and production of cotton.  Click here or on the picture below to see the graph in a larger size.

Although this map does not show as stark of a comparison as other Minard maps, it still serves to show a clever framwork for cartographic comparison.

This is a post in our continuing “Mondays with Minard series, exhibiting Charles Joseph Minard’s excellent cartographic handiwork.  This map was photographed specifically for use here at Cartographia from the collections of the Library of Congress.  Feel free to reproduce the map in any way you wish, but please cite us as the source. 

Hannibal Crosses the Alps

Charles Joseph Minard’s most famous work, a chart of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, immediately impresses the observer with the magnitude of Napoleon’s losses.  The quickest of glances shows the dramatic thinning of the line representing the number of men in his army as they succumbed to starvation, enemy combat, and the bitter cold.  Minard produced a companion map, shown above, of Hannibal Barca’s invasion of Italy in 218 BC during the Second Punic War, including his famous crossing of the Alps.

Minard’s map charts Hannibal’s path from Iberia (Spain), across southern Gaul (France), across the Alps and into Italy.  Minard represents the number of men in Hannibal’s army with the thickness of the line showing the army’s path.  One millimeter of thickness represents 1,000 men.  The Hannibal map, however, is not as striking as the Napoleon map.  For one, the numbers of men involved in Hannibal’s invasion are significantly smaller.  Minard could have exaggerated Hannibal’s losses by increasing the ratio of men to line thickness, but held exactness in too high a regard to attempt such data manipulation.  Click here or on the picture above to see the full map.

The Punic Wars were fought between Rome and Carthage over control over the Western Mediterranean.  The First Punic War, between 264 to 241 BC, was fought over control of Sicily and ended with Roman victory and the defeat of Carthaginian naval power.  The Second Punic War, on the other hand, was fought over conflicting spheres of Roman and Carthaginian influence in Spain.  Rome declared war on Carthage in 218 BC, and Hannibal set out soon after to invade Italy.

Hannibal understood that Carthaginian naval power was weak, and that Rome had to be struck directly in order to guarantee decisive victory.  Since he had no means of attacking by sea, he had to strike overland.  According to Minard’s sources, Hannibal began his journey with 94,000 men including cavalry, siege engines, and, famously, 36 war elephants.  When he arrived at the Pyrenees, the force numbered about 80,000.  In the Pyrenees he subdued the local tribes with significant losses.  Minard records Hannibal’s army at a strength of 60,000 when it emerged from the mountains, a loss of 25%. 

An approximate overlay of Hannibal’s route on a modern-day map from Google Earth. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Hannibal now marched across the plains of southern Gaul, defeating or negotiating with the local tribes.  He only met significant resistance when he tried to cross the Rhone River near modern Avignon.  He defeated the opposing tribe, as Minard shows, by sending a detachment upriver and outflanking them.   Hannibal then began his crossing of the Alps.  To this day, Hannibal’s path across the mountains is debated.  Minard’s legend indicates that he uses the route suggested by French historian Jean-Louis Larauza, though Minard indicates he himself cannot speak to the historical accuracy of this route.  Regardless, Minard indicates the severe losses Hannibal’s army experienced during the crossing–46,000 men entered the foothills of the Alps in 218 BC, but only 25,000 emerged. 

Now in Italy, Hannibal sought to join up with anti-Roman allies in the region, but before he could he had to fight his way through further hostile tribes and local Roman forces.  By the time the army crossed the Po River, these engagements dwindled the forces to a stunning 6,000 men.  It was these few who would join with the anti-Roman forces in northern Italy to begin the main assault on Roman territory. 

Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps is generally regarded as a masterpiece of military strategy, but in the crossing Hannibal suffered dramatic losses of men, as well as of his war elephants and, perhaps most importantly, his siege engines.  Without these engines, Hannibal would not be able to penetrate the fortifications of Rome itself and force a surrender.  Though he ravaged the Italian countryside for several years and won several important battles, he was eventually defeated by the tactics of Quintus Fabius Maximus, who realized he could defeat Hannibal by attacking the one thing he could not replace–his men.  He began forcing Hannibal to fight small, costly engagements instead of direct conflicts.  These “Fabian” tactics are still used today; we know them as “wars of attrition.”  The constant skirmishes caused Hannibal’s limited manpower to dwindle to dangerous levels, and eventually forced his retreat as he still could not receive reinforcements from Carthage. 

Napoleon III and the Fall of an Empire

Electoral maps use simple colors and shapes to illustrate voter preference.  But by their very nature this simplicity belies a complex story of the class struggle, self interest, power, ideology, and money that influence politics.  Few maps, though, tell as important a story as the one above–a map of the Paris parliamentary elections of 1869, which shows the changing political tide that would lead to domestic turmoil, and eventually to a major international war and the fall of the Second French Empire.

As Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Charles Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was born into a prominent and infamous family.  His family’s earlier fall from grace meant he was raised in exile, in Italy and Great Britain.  But when the Second Republic was established in France in 1848, Louis-Napoleon was free to return to his ancestral country and quickly became the clear Bonapartist candidate for the throne.  He was able to win a landslide victory in the Second Republic’s first presidential elections, and despite spending nearly all his life outside the country, was elected as the first-ever President of the French Republic.  Only three years later, in 1851, he led a successful coup against his own government and seized dictatorial powers.  One year later, the Republic was abolished, and Charles Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte became Napoleon III, Emperor of the French.

The 1850s proved fruitful for Napoleon III.  Not only had he seized and solidified imperial powers, but he also married and produced an heir, and led the country into a successful and victorious conflict with Russia in the Crimean War to increase his prestige at home and abroad.  But the 1860s proved more difficult for his regime.  Domestic political opponents forced him to reduce his authoritarian powers; his invasion of Mexico, though initially successful, was defeated and his puppet ruler executed; Victor Hugo was serving as the eloquent pen of the exiled Republican politicians; and Napoleon III’s war against Austria in support of Italian Unification alienated his Catholic political support, presaging later difficulties.  Most importantly, Napoleon III could only watch as Prussia gained power in Germany throughout the decade.

The elections of 1863 saw anti-Bonapartist factions gain seats in the parliament, demanding more liberties from the Empire.  Given his foreign policy failures, Napoleon III lacked the legitimacy to oppose them, and further liberties were granted.  Socialism was taking root among the working classes, who came to oppose the monarchy despite Napoleon III’s explicit pro-labor positions.  These pressures came to fruition in the elections of 1869.

The map above was developed by Leon Montigny, a French mapmaker and author.  It depicts the electoral results of the French parliamentary elections in May and June 1869.  Montigny demarcates the boundaries of each Parisian neighborhood by mapping the streets that form their boundaries.  Over each area, he provides a rectangle whose area is proportional to the number of voters in the district, with each square centimeter representing 1,000 voters.  Each neighborhood’s rectangle is subdivided into smaller rectangles, colored to represent the parties that received votes.  Click here or on the picture above to see the full map.

In this map, the candidates representing Napoleon III’s government are represented in yellow; the anti-Bonapartist opposition from the previous election are in pink and blue; and the socialists are represented in orange.  Even a fleeting glance at the map shows the explicit failure of the Emperor’s politics–his government’s candidates came in a distant second or third in nearly every neighborhood.  In some areas, they received almost no votes at all.

Socialists seem to have resided for the most part in the southern and east-central parts of the city, while the pro-government voters apparently lived in the city center, potentially near their places of employment in government offices.  Overall, the city outskirts voted overwhelmingly against the government.  It was the end of Napoleon III’s absolutist rule.

The successes of the opposition in the 1869 election forced Napoleon III to award multiple concessions, transforming his regime from an absolutist empire to a much more liberal one.  But while the domestic opposition seemed content for the moment, the exiled Republicans were more determined than ever to overthrow the Empire.  Facing dissent at home and abroad, and a dwindling prestige and legitimacy, Napoleon III turned to a frequently-used tactic by unpopular leaders–war.

As Napoleon III’s domestic power had weakened, Prussia’s military power had grown.  In 1866, Otto von Bismarck and Helmuth von Moltke had led Prussia to victory over Austria, consolidating their country’s leadership of the fragmented German states.  Now, in 1870, Napoleon III looked toward Prussia as a way to again legitimize his rule in the face of unyielding Republican opposition.  His wife, the Empress Eugenie, was quoted as saying “If there is no war, my son will never be emperor.”  If Napoleon III could defeat Prussia and show his strength, he could leverage it into renewed domestic political strength and the preservation of his imperial dynasty.

In 1870, on the tenuous pretext of opposing a Hohenzollern appointment to the throne of Spain, the French Empire declared war on Prussia, beginning the Franco-Prussian War.  Throughout the 1860s, Prussia had built a modern, mobile army under the steady leadership of von Moltke and Albrecht von Roon, and whatever challenges remained in its development were solved during the war with Austria four years earlier.  Now, the Prussians and their German allies stormed into France at the head of a remarkably modern military.  The French suffered a staggering series of defeats until, on September 2, 1870, the French army was routed at the Battle of Sedan, and Napoleon III himself was captured.  Two days later, the French parliament deposed him and declared the Third Republic.

A drawing of Bismarck conversing with Napoleon III after the latter’s capture in the Battle of Sedan on September 2, 1870.

After Sedan, Paris held out under siege for several months, leading to many more deaths and a great deal of destruction.  The treaty that finally ended the war awarded Prussia the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.  Using the prevailing German nationalist feelings to his advantage, Bismarck formalized the establishment of the German Empire, which was officially declared in the occupied Palace of Versailles, further diminishing France as the Continent’s leading military power.  Defeated and deposed, and having led his country to ruin, Napoleon III went into exile in Britain.  He died there on January 9, 1873.  He is buried in Saint Michael’s Abbey, in Farnborough, Hampshire, England, along with his wife, and his son who died while serving with the British Army in the Boer War. 

Montigny’s map, above, depicts with startling clarity one of the most important turning points in Napoleon III’s political career.  His defeat in the elections of 1869 forced him to seek domestic political legitimacy through international conflict.  But like many leaders after him, Napoleon III found that he had more than met his match in his enemy of choice.  The results of Napoleon III’s war would form one of the most important causes of World War One.

I came across Montigny’s map via Michael Friendly’s excellent site here.

Cluster Bombs

Cluster bombs have been in use since the Second World War, but have developed into formidable weapons through years of technical and tactical refinement.  But like other many other weapons, cluster bombs have additional deadly consequences for nearby civilian populations, sometimes long after the conflict has ended.  Now, ongoing talks in Ireland seek to ban the weapons because of the harm they can cause to noncombatants. 

The map above shows the relationships of countries around the world to cluster bombs.  Some countries produce the bombs, while others stockpile them or have used them in combat.  Other unfortunate countries have been on the recieving end of these weapons.  The interactive map allows users to sort the world map by countries that produce, use, stockpile, or have been affected by cluster bombs.    Click here or on the picture above to see the full map.

As a quick glance will show, nearly every major country in the world either produces or stockpiles these weapons.  The major military powers are major producers of the weapons, along with some countries in the developing world.  The bombs are stockpiled by nearly ever industrialized country on earth, from Peru to Finland to Mongolia.  But most of the countries affected by cluster bombs are in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and Southeast Asia, where they have been used in civil and international conflicts such as the Angolan Civil War, the Iran-Iraq War, ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, and the Vietnam War.  Russia has used these weapons in its conflict with Chechen separatists.

When fired, these weapons separate into hundreds of tiny “bomblets” that each falls and explodes independently, creating the potential for large-scale destruction over a wide area.  This potential for destruction makes them desirable weapons for militaries around the world.  However, all the bomblets do not always explode on contact, and some remain on the ground still live and armed .  As with landmines, these unexploded bomblets can cause civilian casualties long after the warring parties have made peace.

The Economist produced this map as part of its coverage of a series of international talks that seek to ban the use of cluster bombs.    The talks have some high-level American supporters, as demonstrated by this article’s description:

“There is no doubt that cluster munitions have some military utility. You could say the same of land mines. I suppose you could say the same of poison gas. But we do ban some weapons,” said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who has led American efforts to outlaw cluster munitions and provide support to their civilian victims.

“Weapons that are inherently indiscriminate, whether by design or effect, should have no place in the 21st century,” said Leahy, who in February led a successful push to ban U.S. exports of cluster bombs.

The current round of talks is occurring in Dublin, Ireland though the 30th of May.  Although over 100 countries have signed on to the attempt to ban cluster bombs, several leading military powers–Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and the United States–have not participated in the talks, suggesting that any treaty will have at best a limited effect.

Violence in the Caucasus

Caucasia is a unique and unusual region.  Straddling the Caucasus Mountains, nestled between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the region is home to many ancient competing ethnic and religious groups.  This competition has bred several wars, including the First and Second Chechen Wars, the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the War in Abkhazia, and the Ossetian-Ingush Conflict.  Today’s remarkable map demonstrates the scale and geographic distribution of violence over time during the Second Chechen War, which began in 1999 and continues today, nine years later.

The map above is actually a series of maps showing the distribution of violence across Caucasia over time resulting from the Second Chechen War.  The map shows the borders of Russian provinces and international borders, and indicates the scale of a violent act based on the size of the red circle representing it on the map.  The largest circles represent violent events with up to 175 victims.  Progressing in three-month increments, the map also plots the mean center of all the violent events, showing that despite the wide area over which violence was occurring, the center of the violence remained squarely in Chechnya.  Click here or on the image above to see the time series map.

This map was created by John V. O’Loughlin and Frank Witmer as part of a paper entitled The Geography of North Caucasian Conflicts (1999–2007): Analysis of 14,000 Violent Incidents presented in March of this year.  Although the map plots violence on a regional level, the O’Loughlin was able to plot each violent act precisely–sometimes down to the level of an individual street corner:

All violent events in and around Chechnya from the beginning of the second war in August 1999 to the present (over 14,000 incidents) have been precisely geo-located and cataloged by actor, scale of violence, date, and target. Cartographic and spatial-statistical analysis of these events shows that the usual descriptions of the conflict as diffusing beyond Chechnya has empirical support. The pattern of violence is related to political and economic targets and to insurgent bases and strategies.  

Incredibly, all the data in the maps was complied from publicly-available newswire sources, which described each violent act in detail.  The author defines violent events as “arrests, weapons cache finds, bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, murders of security personnel, attacks on politicians, etc.”  Click here to read O’Loughlin’s presentation, including additional maps of the conflict. 

As with many of the conflicts in this region of the world, the origins of the Second Chechen War are complex and varied, clouded by the results of previous wars over similar causes.  Officially, the War began as the result of a series of bombings in Russian apartment buildings which were blamed on Chechen separatists, and on the military activities of a Chechen militia group in the neighboring province of Dagestan.  Chechnya had gained de facto independence after the First Chechen War which had ended with a ceasefire in 1996.  Click here to read a detailed history of the Second Chechen War.

As these maps suggest, Chechnya is one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world today, with approximately 300,000 military and police operating in the province–or nearly 1,200 troops or security forces per 100,000 people.  The Second Chechen War alone has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Russian and Chechen soldiers and civilians.

Thanks again to Claire for the recommendation!

CBRN Hazards in Central Asia

Central Asia was a tightly-controlled, heavily militarized region while under Soviet control.  As the Cold War progressed, the Soviets made significant security investments in the region, constructing weapons plants, nuclear reactors, and biological and chemical weapons facilities in a part of the world far removed from the United States or its NATO allies.  The Soviet Union also used Central Asia’s large barren areas as test sites for its nuclear weapons program. 

While independent since 1991, the Soviet Central Asian states confront a legacy of Soviet chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) contamination.  This map, developed by Philippe Rekacewicz for the UN Environment Program, shows the extent of the Soviet investment in CBRN research, development, testing, and manufacturing throughout Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.  Click here or on the picture above to see the full map. 

The map shows Kazakhstan with no fewer than five separate nuclear test sites, four of which are in proximity to major rivers such as the Irtysh and the Volga.  The map also shows several active uranium mining facilities across the country, and shows two chemical and biological research centers, a nuclear waste storage area, and an active research reactor in Almaty, the former national capital.  Kazakhstan continues to suffer health and environmental impacts from Soviet nuclear tests, to the degree that the country has made the cause a major national and foreign policy effort.

Kazakhstan is also home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the central research, control, and launch facility for the Soviet (now Russian) space program.  To the west of Baikonur, in the middle of the shrinking Aral Sea, is Vozrozhdeniya Island, which served as a major Soviet biological weapons proving ground.  Researchers there bred many strains of biological weapons, including the bubonic plague.  The island was home to the world’s largest anthrax dump until 2002 when the U.S. Department of Defense organized a mission to clean up the island.  Over three months, using 113 people and at a cost of $5 million, the expedition neutralized as much as 200 tons of anthrax.

To the southeast, across Tajikistan, Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley, and into Kyrgyzstan, the Soviets built a large number of nuclear waste storage facilities.  These facilities are located outside of small villages with names like Ak-Tuz, Min-Kush, and Mailu-Suu.  The Soviets also build several storage sites in the area for hazardous but non-nuclear materials like antimony and mercury.  These facilities lie deep in the Tien-Shan mountains, which rise over the fault lines between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates.  Any major earthquakes could rupture these storage facilities leading to widespread contamination from nuclear and other hazardous materials.

Turkmenistan and Tajikistan have relatively few CBRN facilities in their territories; but Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in particular continue to face daunting security and cleanup efforts stemming from old and frequently crumbling Soviet facilities.

The original page for this map and its description can be found here. 

How Big is the Middle East?

Given the region’s importance to U.S. national security, it’s important to understand the true size of the Middle East.  While you may have heard that Iraq is “the size of California” or other similar comparisons, the size of the region is expressed with more impact in this map, which superimposes the Middle East and its countries over a map of the 48 continuous United States.

The comparison is stark: Egypt stretches from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho; the Arabian Peninsula engulfs the Great Plains; and the entire Great Lakes region could fit within Iran with room to spare.  The distance between southwest Egypt and southeast Iran is the same as the distance between Los Angeles and Washington, DC.  The legend at the bottom of the map points out that “the Middle East encompasses 90 percent of the area of the contiguous United States.” 

Click here or on the picture above to enlarge and see the full map.

This map was created by the U.S. government.  It was taken from the government documents website of the Paul V. Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Il.

Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia

Napoleon Bonaparte began his ill-fated 1812 invasion of the Russian Empire with 422,000 men.  With each step further into Russian territory, more and more soldiers died or deserted.  By the time it reached Moscow, Napoleon’s army had dwindled to 100,000 men–already less than a quarter the size it had been at the start.  During their disastrous retreat out of Russia, temperatures plunged to −37.5 °C.  Nearly half the remaining survivors of the invasion were killed during the botched crossing of the Berezina River.  Of the 422,000 men who set out on the invasion, barely 10,000 of them returned alive.

All this information is readily visible in the chart above, created by the French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard, which ingeniously combined both a map of the campaign and a visual representation of the number of men remaining in Napoleon’s doomed army.  The thickness of the line is proportional to the number of men in the army (one millimeter equalling 10,000 men), with the beige section representing the offensive toward Moscow, and the black line the retreat.  Below, Minard also included a second chart showing the temperature on various days during the retreat (Minard used the Réaumur scale for his temperatures, as was commonplace at the time.  Converted to Celsius, this makes the coldest part of the retreat a whopping −37.5 °C).  For a large view of the chart, click on the picture above.

Although Minard includes a description above his chart, it is almost completely unnecessary; all the pertinent information is readily apparent from a close examination of the chart itself.  Minard was a master at the production of maps such as these that combined tremendous amounts of data with geographic representations.  Edward Tufte, an expert in the visual display of quantitative information, has called this chart “probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn.”  More of Minard’s works will undoubtedly be featured here in time.

It’s also important to note why, on a blog about maps, the first post is in actuality more of a chart.  Although the most striking feature of the chart is the thinning line of soldiers, the map in the background plays an important role, showing the cities and rivers the army traversed on its way into and out of Russia.  This chart demonstrates how, with good planning a design, maps can operate in concert with many other types of information to create stunning displays of information.


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Cartographia is a blog about how we use maps to represent the world around us, and how people interpret maps today and throughout history. Please feel free to send any questions, comments, or recommendations directly to me at cartographia.blog@gmail.com.

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