American Civil War

Distilling Centuries of Warfare into a Single Visual

I wrote a post awhile back titled “The Civil War in one spectacular chart” about the Comparative Synoptical Chart Company’s singular visualization of the American Civil War. It has gotten a lot of attention, but a couple of readers recently alerted me to the existence of another chart by that company, called “Six Centuries of Attack and Defence.”

It seems to be rare indeed. I can’t find a digital version anywhere, but I’m including photos of the actual chart, which a reader generously shared with me.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Marsden

The chart reads from the bottom up — from King Henry III to Queen Victoria (she falls in the category of “Monarchs,” not “Eminent Men”), from mail-clad cavalry to infantry armed with rifle and bayonet, and from the Second Baron’s War of 1264-1267 to the Spanish American War of 1898.

Capt. B.R. Ward compiled the information for the chart. (His 1896 “Manual of Military Ballooning” is, oddly enough, still in print.) The chart was designed by J. Kellick Bathurst, who compiled the Civil War chart.

Across the top is a reference to the Scaife System of Historical Charts. In doing some background research, I came across “Scaife’s Comparative and Synoptical System of Teaching History” written by Arthur Hodgkin Scaife and published by the Comparative Synoptical Chart Company in 1896. There is a frustrating lack of information online about the company’s history or leaders and little information about Scaife himself, who seems to have created this unique approach to presenting historical information. However, he did write a number of books, including “Index to the Scaife Chart of the American Civil War” and “The War to Date,” published midway through the Boer War in South Africa.

And in case you’re wondering, “synoptic” is defined as 1) affording a general view of a whole or 2) manifesting or characterized by comprehensiveness or breadth of view, both of which seem to describe the company’s goal with these charts. However, the fact that there is scant information about any of the charts except the one about the American Civil War makes me wonder if this style of teaching history didn’t catch on.

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