These extraordinary maps show 50 years of war from both sides of early 20th century conflicts

By Culture24 Reporter | Updated: 19 September 2016

A new exhibition brings together some of the most important pictorial war maps of the 20th century - including the Boer War, Russian Civil War and two World Wars.




Falter (John), USNR, That’s the Spot to Hit! – Give us the Stuff and We’ll Hit It!, 1944

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
This striking American poster was designed to inspire increased productivity among the hundreds of thousands of workers involved in the war effort.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet is displayed in front of a map of the Pacific Theatre of War. The areas under Japanese control are marked in red.


Whistler (Rex), Flying Visit of Truth to Berlin, 1939

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
This illustration mocking the Nazi leadership commemorates the first RAF raid over Berlin. On the night of October 1 1939, four Whitley Bombers of 10 Squadron of the RAF flew over Berlin.

They could only drop leaflets as the RAF was not authorised to bomb civilian property outside the immediate warzones. This policy was rescinded after the German fire-bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940.


Von Baumgarten (Eugen), L’Entente Cordiale, 1915

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
This image was designed to reinforce the German propaganda message that Great Britain’s aggressive imperial ambitions were the principal cause of the war, and that she was dragging her misguided allies into the conflict to fight on her behalf.

A monstrous spider with the face of John Bull squats malevolently across Europe, devouring a French soldier at Calais.


S. P. K. Confiance, Ses Amputations se Poursuivent Methodiquement [Be Reassured -- The Amputations are Proceeding Methodically], 1941

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
While frequently described as a ‘Vichy’ map, this potent propaganda map, designed to inspire revulsion and hatred of the English among the French, is likely to have been printed in Paris by the Propaganda-Abteilung Frankreich, the German propaganda unit in occupied France.

A grotesque octopus, with the face of Winston Churchill, is shown attempting to seize various French colonial possessions.


The United Press and the Columbia Broadcasting System, 1939 A.D. Pictorial History and World Map, 1939

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
This is a detailed summation of the principal events leading up to the declaration of war in Europe in 1939, as seen from the neutral American perspective.

“The news events depicted were selected for their outstanding interest and importance...”. They include the ending of the Spanish Civil War, Nazi-Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, England and France’s declaration of war against Germany and Soviet Russia’s invasion of Finland.


Anon: БРЕДЪ ВИЛЬГЕЛЬМА [Wilhelm’s Nightmare], 1914

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
This scarce Russian piece was published in Moscow and approved by the Moscow military censors on October 23 1914. It reflects the belief, prevalent at least among the more optimistic Allied Powers at the start of the First World War, that the huge Russian army would advance inexorably out of the east rolling over the Germans as they came.

The German Emperor, Wilhelm II, his bedspread pulled back to reveal a map of Europe, is shown waking from a nightmare to find a Cossack charging straight into his gaping mouth.


Blake (Frederick Donald), Britain - Spearhead of Attack, circa 1944

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
A British propaganda map by the artist Frederick Donald Blake celebrating Allied successes in Europe.


Lehmann-Dumont (Karl), Humoristische Karte von Europa im Jahre 1914 [Humorous Map of Europe in 1914], 1914

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
A fascinating depiction of the German view of the situation in Europe in 1914. A confident German Michel (the equivalent of Britain’s John Bull or the US’s Uncle Sam) is striking out at both France and Russia.

The Germans have unleashed a swarm of bees, shown stinging the Russian Bear, the Belgian Toad and the French Cockerel, while the Kaiserliche Marine’s High Seas Fleet is a mailed fist emerging from the North Sea to strike England in the face.


Huguenin (André), Théatre de la Guerre Européenne [European Theatre of War], 1915

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
This elegant monochrome caricature of Europe, published in Switzerland for the French market, shows the countries characterised by their heads of state or national stereotypes.

To the right we see the dominant profile of Nicholas II of Russia, his lighted cigar tip resting on the head of Franz Josef I of Austro-Hungary.


Robida (Albert), L’Appétit de la Pieuvre [The Appetite of the Octopus], circa 1914

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
This striking French image combines the predatory German Eagle with the grasping tentacles of the octopus to powerful effect.

Published just before the First World War, it vividly reflects the French fear of an expansionist and increasingly aggressive Germany.


Rose (Frederick W), John Bull and his Friends, 1900

A photo of a colourful map illustration of the world
© The Map House
An iconic image by Fred Rose, the most influential anthropomorphic mapmaker of the modern age.

The map captures all the internecine resentments and rivalries of Europe, a continent on the very eve of self-destruction. Britain dressed in khaki is preparing to march off to fight in the Boer War.

  • War Map: Pictorial Conflict Maps 1900-1950 is at The Map House, London from September 23 - November 18 2016.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three places to see maps

National Maritime Museum, London
The Great Map provides a space at the centre of the Museum where people can gather, delve deeper into our collections, and join in with events and celebrations. This multi-sensory experience is especially suitable for families.

American Museum in Britain, Bath
In 1988, Dr Dallas Pratt, co-founder of the American Museum in Britain, gave the museum more than 200 Renaissance maps of the New World – a collection acclaimed by scholars as one of the finest holdings of rare printed world maps in existence.

, Dumfries
The poet Robert Burns wrote “Rigs o’ Barley” in 1783, around the time when many of the maps in the current exhibition, “Amang the rigs o’ Barley", were drawn. Rigs were a feature of the landscape that had slowly begun to change. The landscape of the larger estates was being mapped in order to plan future changes. With the help of these early maps we can imagine the landscape Burns saw.
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