Map: Professor shows how U.S. would look if secession movements worked

SHARE Map: Professor shows how U.S. would look if secession movements worked

The not-so-cold war between Chicago and Illinois is nothing new here.

Chicago is often the focus of vitriol directed as us from the rest of the state – and the country, for that matter. Our politics and self important sense of entitlement a rallying cry Downstate. All of which sounds like so much whining to city dwellers, self-assured in their sense of importance to Illinois.

It’s long been joked that there’s Illinois and its neighbor, the Great State of Chicago. And the talk of Chicago secession – maybe it’s more accurate to say talk of evicting Chicago and Cook County from Illinois – has percolated as recently at 2011. Though it’s an idea that goes back to the Civil War and there are other pushes like the Forgottonia movement that would further divvy up the state.

The complex symbiosis between Illinois and Chicago notwithstanding, though, we are far from alone in our united quests to pull apart.

Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears has pulled together the quests to divide our disjointed union into a fascinating map – the 124 United States That Could Have Been. From Aroostook in the far northeast corner to Baja California in the southwest and North Slope in the northwest to South Florida in the southeast, Shears stitches together various historic secession movements through history to display how the United States might have been a much different country had myriad border squabbles and political movements been allowed to succeed. Click here for a larger, hi-res version of the map posted above.

Shears refers to his work as “fictional history,” his own swipe at alternate history storytelling. As we move into a new year, it’s intriguing to take a look back, though, at just how different things could have been. Of course, most of these moves had little chance at success. But seeing how dividing lines – real and projected – work to bind the states and country as a whole is a fantastic piece of experimental map-making to ponder the next time you start grumbling about those pesky Downstaters or the vileness of Crook County.

After reading all of these things, and all of the linked pages connected — that’s where Wikipedia really sucks you in — I, of course, allowed my own mind to wander and I came up with the beginnings of a historical geography narrative for the United States of my own, drawing on each of these sources. How could I spell this out? Well, I’m no novelist, because I just really don’t have the imagination or skills necessary to put together a story in that format. However, I can make maps here and there, and I firmly believe that maps can do a pretty good job telling a story.

(H/T Chris Cillizza for The Washington Post)

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