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eagereyesTV: Minard's Famous "Napoleon's March" Chart – What It Shows, What It Doesn't

This chart is a staple in every visualization course and many visualization talks. But what does it show, and what does it leave out? There's a lot more to Napoleon's Russian Campaign and to Charles Minard's work than this one chart. My new video looks beyond the surface of what is perhaps the most famous chart out there.

In the video, I explain what the chart shows (it's actually a map, but I keep calling it a chart) and how it works. But more than that, I'm looking at what Minard did not include. He had to simplify things significantly to make the chart work. But because the chart is so well known now, that means that we're missing the complete other side of that war (the Russian military and militias fighting the French), and the civilian toll.

People also like to tell stories about certain points on the map, some of which are provably false. What I'm hoping to do with this video is show some of the context of the chart and data, and debunk one particularly egregious (but very compelling) false story: that of the crossing of the Berezina River near Studenka where thousands of soldiers supposedly fell through the ice.

You can watch the video over on YouTube or right here.

I've written about the need to reduce the amount of data shown to tell a story before (using Minard's chart even). An important source has also been Menno-Jan Kraak's book, Mapping Time, as well as Sandra Rendgen's The Minard System (which makes an appearance in the video).

I have changed the format of my videos slightly and picked new music for the intro and outro (there's also a little Easter egg at the very end). Let me know what you think! I think I'm also going to stop bugging people to like and subscribe in the video, but I would of course highly appreciate it if you did so!

Posted by Robert Kosara on March 14, 2021. Filed under eagereyestv.