The World in 1930 – New Atlas

A “new” Atlas provides a different view of the world, or at least it did prior to the advent of Online mapping. Philips Handy Volume Atlas of the World, Vol 17, 1930 contains 80 maps in a book approximately the size of a largish, thick pocket diary. The 1930 edition includes “the very latest geographical changes … such as the recent settlement regarding the boundary between Canada and Labrador, the frontiers between Iraq, Transjordan and the Nejd …”.

The distribution of population by continent was as follows (and in 2015): Europe 417 m (742 m), Asia 901 m (4,397 m), Africa 131 m (1,171 m), North America 114 m (357 m), South America 43 m (630 m), Australasia 7 m (40 m) , Total 1,613 m (7,127 m).

The authors also divided the population by racial type – White 900 m, Yellow 500 m, Black 200 m. So, what could possibly go wrong with devising a racial typology of the world’s population? Intriguingly the Jews were included in the white column while some of Hitler’s more willing European allies in the Magyars and the Finns were included in the Yellow column so even the junk science of race had fuzzy bits around the edges.

Europe in 1930 looks generally similar to the map of 2016 after the breakup of the old empires in the aftermath of WWI. The significant difference lies in the location of Poland, which looks as if it has been pushed some distance eastward, out beyond the eastern border of Lithuania. In the west, Germany occupies all but a sliver of the south Baltic coast which is divided between Poland and the League of Nations Mandated Free City of Danzig, with East Prussia separated from the rest of Germany. This curious arrangement was designed to give Poland some access to a port city, if only indirectly. Danzig (now Gdansk) was then a 95% German city with a Polish hinterland and was in a Customs Union with Poland. WWII in Europe started with a German attack on Danzig and Poland. A glance at the map suggests that an efficient Panzer Division could easily have driven through the Polish sliver and Danzig from one side of Germany to the other in an hour or so.

The second largest city in Poland was listed as Livow (Lemberg when part of Austria Hungary) which is now known as Lvov and is well inside Ukraine. Poland was also disputing control of Wilno / Vilnius with Lithuania at this time. That is a considerable distance east of the current Polish border. Stalin’s desire for an enlarged buffer between Russia and Germany led to Poland being deprived of a considerable amount of its’ eastern territory which contained one third of the pre war population of Poland. As compensation Germany was forced out of the traditional German regions of Pomerania, East Prussia and Silesia and back to the current Oder Niese border and these traditionally German areas were granted to Poland, effectively as a region for new Polish settlements and resettlements arising from the Soviet boundary revision. These territory exchanges led to massive population movements at the end of WWII. Breslau became Wroclaw as the history of the region was re-written and the towns renamed.

After WWII Romania was deprived of the territory of what is now Moldova and the easternmost extension of Czechoslovakia was also ceded to Ukraine, both of which were part of the USSR and reflected the Russian desire for a larger buffer against invasion from the west.

Italy controlled all of the Istrian peninsula which it now shares with Slovenia and Croatia, and it also contained the town of Zara (now Zadar) further down the Adriatic coast. Italy also ruled Rhodes and the other Dodecanese islands which are now part of Greece.

In East Asia Japan controlled by conquest Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), the southern half of Sakhalin and Port Arthur (Darien) on the Chinese mainland. And then a year or two later they got really aggressive, starting the conflagration in Manchuria which eventually morphed into WWII.

Africa consisted largely of colonies of the European powers but it is a tribute to the “wisdom” of European statesmen in Berlin in 1884 that the boundaries devised by them have more or less held all this time. The recent breakup of Sudan into the primarily Arabic Sudan and the largely black South Sudan is the first major boundary realignment in the more than 50 years since the wave of African independence in the 1960’s.

One of the more interesting regions was the Arabian peninsula where the rulers of Nejd had just defeated the rulers of El Hejaz and Asir and were in the process of establishing he Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The boundaries of the small surrounding emirates were as yet poorly defined and understood by the Atlas editors, showing the lateness of modern state formation in this region as well as the harshness of the desert environment. The discovery of oil assisted in the process of defining boundaries between different territories, albeit some of them, such as Aden and several of the Gulf states were under the “protection” of the British Empire through to the 1970’s.

Most of the Americas look to be unchanged except for the easterly extension of Ecuador which was lost to Peru in the second biggest war of 1941. Newfoundland and Labrador became a part of Canada after WWII. Who did Canadians laugh at before Newfies?

The real surprise in this 1930 Atlas is that it depicts in all its glory the short lived Territory of Central Australia which lasted for less than four years as an entity independent of Darwin.

Full of surprises, atlases!




About Greg

Middle aged male, resident at the finest of all latitudes, 37. Reputedly an indoor cricketer.
This entry was posted in Books, European history, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The World in 1930 – New Atlas

  1. Pingback: Music and dance in Liberia in the 1930s | Greg Tangey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s