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During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, Great Britain, France, Portugal and Spain controlled vast territories across the globe through a combination of seapower, economic control and brute force. This video from the Portuguese visualisation designers Pedro M Cruz and Penousal Machado charts the rise and fall of these four largest maritime empires, from 1776 and the American War of Independence, right up to 2009, when the once-expansive land claims of these nations barely extended beyond the European continent. The duo illustrates the centuries-long process of decolonisation as a kind of mitosis, with newly independent nations splitting off from the colonial powers. According to Cruz, the soft, cellular bodies used for the visualisation are meant to convey the ‘volatility and dynamic nature’ of these empires over time.
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