Battle of Borodino: 200 Years Ago Today, All in the Greatest Graph Ever Drawn

Minard Graph of Napoleon's invasion/Public Domain

We don't do a lot of history on TreeHugger, but we do show a lot of graphs. The great Battle of Borodino was two hundred years ago today, where Napoleon lost a third of his army and essentially ended his invasion of Russia. In 1861, Charles Joseph Minard drew this graph that shows the campaign, with a wide river of soldiers moving east and a tiny trickle staggering home. Edwarde Tufte writes that it seems to "defy the pen of the historian by its brutal elegance."

Tufte continues:

Minard's graphic tells a rich, coherent story with its multivariate data, far more enlightening than just a single number bouncing along over time. Six variables are plotted: The size of the army, its location on a two-dimensional surface, direction of the army's movement, and temperature on various dates during the retreat from Moscow.

It may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn.

Tags: France | Russia | Wayback Machine

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