Friday, October 13, 2017

Minard's March on Moscow


Charles Minard was a pioneer of the use of graphics in engineering and statistics. His most famous visualization was his flow-map of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign. During his March on Moscow Napoleon faced freezing temperatures and starving conditions (the Russian army burnt anything that might feed or shelter Napoleon's army as it retreated). Minard's flow map visualizes this eastward march of Napoleon's army, showing where units split off and rejoined, the freezing temperatures and the declining size of his army.

The Russian news agency TASS has created a great story map which uses data from Minard's flow-map to retell the story of Napoleon's 1812 March on Moscow. This interactive story map explains some of the key events in Napoleon's campaign and compares Minard’s data with the current historical understanding of the conflict.

1812 - When Napoleon Ventured East uses MapboGL's oblique view and an extruded polygon to create a 3d version of Minard's flow-map on top of a modern map of eastern Europe. The shrinking height of the polygon as it moves eastwards visualizes the dwindling size of Napoleon's army. As you progress through 1812 this 3d flow-map is drawn on to the modern interactive map while the accompanying text provides an historical account of Napoleon's campaign.

1812 - When Napoleon Ventured East is therefore far more than just a modern reworking of Minard's flow-map. It is also an in-depth history map of Napoleon's campaign. The map explores the background to Napoleon's March on Moscow and provides a detailed account of the campaign and the reasons for its failure.


Napoleon's March is a Leaflet reworking of Minard's flow map. This map is an interesting attempt at replicating Minard's flow map on a real atlas. It allows us to more clearly see the geography of Napoleon's march. Unfortunately this map lacks Minard's temperature chart which visualized the freezing temperatures faced by Napoleon's army as they pushed eastwards.


Minard + Napoleon overlays Minard's original flow-map on top of an interactive Mapbox map.  Interactive polygons have then been added on top of Minard's flow-map to make it interactive. If you click on the flow-map you can view the date and the number of troops Napolean had left at that location.

You can also click on the French text on Minard's original flow-map for an English translation. A line graph also plots Napoleon's army size by date, providing a neat visualization of the dramatic loss of men as the army marched eastwards.

Charles Joseph Minard also created a flow map of British coal exports in the year 1864. This Esri map is a faithful interactive reproduction of this lesser known Minard flow map. English Coal Exports 1864 shows the countries where Britain exported coal to and the quantities exported to each country. The width of the lines on the map represent the quantities of coal exports for each part of the trade-route.
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