Two maps that show the evolution of global shipping

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An assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, Ben Schmidt, has put together a few rather cool-looking maps that display the world’s modern shipping routes. What’s interesting is that, viewed together, the routes create an inverted map of the world—a reminder of the broad reach of global trade.

The map above displays shipping routes from 1980 to 1997, based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. By contrast, the map below is based on shipping routes from the 19th century. It shows routes principally around North and South America, Europe, and Africa. Just a few routes, depicted by faint lines, run to Asia.