A friend gave me a beautiful old globe recently. A wooden base; a fake bronze arm with the degrees of latitude marked; and even with the mountainous regions sticking up in 3-D relief.
Or at least, I thought it was old; and we spent half an hour trying to date it with our own native intelligence.
Without being very systematic, we looked around at the countries and borders. There was Russia, and no Soviet Union. A united Germany with Berlin marked as the capital. The Czech republic. So we are into the 1990s.
It was harder to find a date ‘before which’ the globe had to be made, especially when my political history is not very accurate. But eventually we found ‘Hong Kong (UK)’, so it couldn’t be this decade; and then Zaire, instead of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I had no idea exactly when Zaire changed its name, but I knew it was relatively recently.
That’s as far as we got. It was like a parlour game. And then we went to the internet and found that the Replogle website (the company that makes the globe) has a marvellous ‘how old is your globe‘ page, stretching back to 1939. It does for you exactly what we were doing ourselves, without the fun, but with some claim to accuracy. It turns out that we did pretty well. The page lists all of the political/geographical changes that have coincided with the production of new globes. Here is a selection of the most recent dates, with NEW NAME, DATE OF CHANGE, OLD NAME, and LOCATION:
- Montenegro, 2006, Serbia and Montenegro, E. of Italy
- Serbia and Montenegro, 2003, Yugoslavia (part), E. of Italy
- East Timor, 1999, Indonesia, isle N. of Australia
- Congo, Dem. Repub. Of, 1997, Zaire, Central Africa
- Samoa, 1997, Western Samoa, S. Pacific Ocean
- Czech. Rep., 1993, Czechoslovakia, S. of Germany & Poland
- Eritrea, 1993, Ethiopia (part), N. of Ethiopia, S. end of Red Sea
- Slovakia, 1993, Czechoslovakia, S. of Poland
- Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1992, Yugoslavia (part), E. of Italy
- Croatia, 1992, Yugoslavia (part), E. of Italy
- Macedonia, 1992, Yugoslavia (part), N. of Greece
- Slovenia, 1992, Yugoslavia (part), E. of Italy
So with the Czech Republic and DR Congo we actually did as well as we could, and guessed into the mid-1990s (1993 to 1997 as it turned out to be); even though we hadn’t been sure if Zaire disappeared before or after ‘Hong Kong (UK)’. You can play this game whenever you come across a globe. But, like Trivial Pursuit, it’s ruined once you memorise the answers.