The History of Asia in Numbers

Like many others in analytics, the work of Hans Rosling was part of the inspiration for the brand of analytics that FYT delivers to our clients. I was particularly impressed by how he contextualized the data with notable historic events to help the audience better appreciate the quantifiable impact of such events. And I could clearly remember imagining the impact this could have on my learning IF my history or economics lessons were presented in similar fashion. If you have never heard of Hans Rosling or are confused about the video I'm referring to, you can see the video for yourself here.

So I had decided to try my hands in building such a tool on my own; to better understand and contextualize the history of Asia. Starting with Gapminder, the non-profit organization founded by Dr. Hans Rosling himself, I leveraged their life expectancy data which goes back as far as 1800, to recreate history. It was easy to visualize the data and see the changes and trends; but I couldn't explain any of it. I had to painstakingly research each notable point in the data and map it to the associated historical event; and even then I couldn't find them all. But I have a whole new appreciation for history after the exercise. For example,

  • The Spanish Flu of 1918 and World War II had a tremendous impact on lives in Asia; the life expectancy visibly dropped during those times for many countries

  • However, SARS which happened quite recently, had a negligible impact on life expectancy; which could be a testament to the progress humans have made in medicine and healthcare.

  • You could see the many famines that India had suffered before and during British rule in the 1800s to early 1900s

  • You could see the impact of the opium wars, cultural revolution and the great famine under the Chinese Communist Party rule; followed by significant progress in China thereafter

  • You could also see the impact of the Soviet-Afghanistan War, the Korean War, The Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge Genocide

What surprised me was the human toll that famines and wars take on a country and the amount of time it takes for the country to recover and some have yet to fully recover. And also to appreciate the countries who have enjoyed peace and prosperity in the decades after World War II.

But rather than see take my word for it, you can take a look at it for yourself and see what you discover for yourself, we'd love to hear about it.

Simply click on the charts and it will take you to an interactive version of the dashboard; select the country of interest and mouse over the points to get details about historical events.

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