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App Review: Maps of the World

Detail from 'The Age of Discovery' map; click to enlarge

Seung Bin-Cho's app brings hundreds of historical maps into the palm of your hand, giving the lay cartographer a hoard of global charts, spanning centuries and continents, that map-makers of yore could only dream of.

Firstly, the good bits. The maps are displayed in high definition, and the breadth and range included is remarkable. There are hundreds available, stretching from a 4th century map of the Roman Empire, through England just before the Norman Invasion, via Revolutionary Paris and on to the modern era, with a map of Nato in 1970. The maps can be browsed by era or by theme. Some of the more interesting look like early examples of infographic: the population density map of 1918, for example, or the chart showing the 'notable high buildings of the world in 1896' (at 1000ft, the Eiffel Tower was by far the tallest of the period).

Particularly impressive is a depiction of the Age of Discovery, 1340-1600 (shown above), in which the routes taken by Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama et al during the early colonial years are directly graphed onto the map, along with the dates in which each was "discovered" by the European explorers.

The app itself is free, which is welcome, but does lead to a single gripe: 'free' means ad-supported, and the intrusive pop-ups at the bottom of the screen tend to distract from the user experience. But this is a small price to pay for the chance of having such cartographic wisdom in your pocket. What would Magellan have made of it?

History: Maps of the World is available for iOS from the App Store, and is free; the developer also has a number of other apps available.

Got a history-themed app you think we should take a look at? Drop us a note in the comments.