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Joseph Priestley Issues the Most Influential Historical Timeline of the Eighteenth Century

1769 to 1770
<p>Hand-colored version of Joseph Priestly's A New Chart of History. Dedicated&nbsp;<em>To Benjamin Franklin LLD. FRS. This Chart In Testimony of Esteem &amp; Friendship. Inscribed By his most obliged Humble Serv. Joseph Priestley.</em></p>

Hand-colored version of Joseph Priestly's A New Chart of History. Dedicated To Benjamin Franklin LLD. FRS. This Chart In Testimony of Esteem & Friendship. Inscribed By his most obliged Humble Serv. Joseph Priestley.

In 1769 and 1770 British theologian, dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist Joseph Priestley published A New Chart of History with A Description of a New Chart of History.

"Together with his Chart of Biography (1765), which he dedicated to his friend Benjamin Franklin, Priestley believed these charts would allow students to 'trace out distinctly the dependence of events to distribute them into such periods and divisions as shall lay the whole claim of past transactions in a just and orderly manner.'

"The Chart of History lists events in 106 separate locations; it illustrates Priestley's belief that the entire world's history was significant, a relatively new development in the 18th century, which had begun with Voltaire and William Robertson. The world's history is divided up into the following geographical categories: Scandinavia, Poland, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey in Europe, Turkey in Asia, Germany, Persia, India, China, Africa and America. Priestley aimed to show the history of empires and the passing of power; the subtitle of the Description that accompanied the chart was 'A View of the Principal Revolutions of Empire that have taken place in the World' and he wrote that:

"The capital use [of the Charts was as] a most excellent mechanical help to the knowledge of history, impressing the imagination indelibly with a just image of the rise, progress, extent, duration, and contemporary state of all the considerable empires that have ever existed in the world.

" As Arthur Sheps in his article about the Charts explains, 'the horizontal line conveys an idea of the duration of fame, influence, power and domination. A vertical reading conveys an impression of the contemporaneity of ideas, events and people. The number or density of entries . . . tells us about the vitality of any age.' Voids in the chart indicated intellectual Dark Ages, for example" (Wikipedia article on A New Chart of History, accessed 07-10-2011).

Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time (2010) 116-17, plate 20.

Timeline Themes