Map of the UK and Western Europe showing routes taken by Vikings
Map of the UK and Western Europe showing routes taken by Vikings

What Happened When in the World: Putting History on the Map

What Happened When in the World: Putting History on the Map

What Happened When in the World is a whistle-stop tour through human history and its place on the map.  From our origins in Africa to the dawn of the information age, this beautiful children's book takes key stories and explains what happened while showing you where. We're proud to share this book in celebration of National Non-Fiction November.

Illustrating maps isn’t a new idea. Ancient maps often featured clouds puffing powerful winds from their cheeks, evil-eyed dragons lurking in forests, and toothy monsters leaping out of the oceans. In part this was for decoration, but the mapmakers were also warning people about stormy seas and the creatures they might encounter on land (remember, this was before the days of David Attenborough, when little was known about the animal kingdom). What Happened When in the World builds upon tradition, finding even more exciting ways to bring history to life and putting information on the map to create an exciting visual experience for kids.

There are more than 65 maps in the book, each on a different theme or event, including the rise and fall of empires, world wars, and voyages of exploration and discovery. Here’s a look at just three maps, to give you an idea of how they work.


This is a map of Normandy, France, as it was on 6 June 1944 – D-Day in World War II, when the Allies struck a decisive blow with 600 warships, 4,000 landing craft, and 156,000 Allied troops launching a surprise attack on the coast of German-occupied France. With so many army divisions, it’s almost impossible to picture their movement onto the beaches in your head, but when you plot them on a map you get the whole story of D-Day at a glance.

The Black Death

Despite first appearances, the “Black Death” in the map above was not a horde of giant mutant rats that rampaged through Asia and Europe during the 14th Century. It was a disease – the bubonic plague – carried by fleas that lived on rats. On our map, the bigger the rat, the worse the outbreak of the plague. Using monstrous rats instead of the usual flat graphic symbols not only brings the map to life, but also captures something of the fear - the Black Death was truly terrifying and wiped out between 30 and 60 per cent of the population of Europe.

The Origins of Writing

Sometimes you have to zoom out to really understand history. This map reveals the story of writing, showing the origins of its different forms alongside each other to reveal a pattern. Patches of deep colour show us that writing was invented several times in different places – in Central America, Egypt and the Middle East, possibly India, and China. These are places that, thousands of years ago, had little or no contact with one another. But, like ripples in a pond, writing spread from these centres to the paler surrounding areas, evolving over centuries into the systems we use today.

These are just a few moments in time. Kids will love What Happened When in the World, taking them on a journey further into history, one map at a time. Don't forget to share your favourite non fiction books for National Non-fiction November with #NNFN.

Buy the book

Buy the book

What Happened When in the World What Happened When in

History as you've never seen it before, walk through the past and find out what happened whenStep into What Read More

History as you've never seen Read More

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