What is a timeline?

We explain what a timeline is and what it can be used for. In addition, the different steps to make one.

  1. What is a timeline?

It is known as timeline (or  timeline  in English) to  a sequential arrangement of events on a subject , so that the chronological order of these events can be appreciated. Said in simpler terms, it is a way to visually organize the information of a subject, so that the historical order in which the central milestones of the subject in question occurred can be appreciated.

It is a technique widely used in the educational context, either in history books or in exhibitions, since it allows the sequential ordering of information along a line or arrow that indicates the direction in which historical time passes . Therefore, the left-most events will be the oldest, and the most toward the tip of the arrow or to the right end of the line will be the most recent.

The different eras or historical eras of humanity or of a given region or population are commonly organized with the timelines  ; the specific events that took place within a given context (such as in a war , a revolution, a specific government, etc.); or the determining historical moments in the particular history of a person, a technology or a knowledge.

Often, whatever the case may be, events of historical or universal importance are often also located to shed context or establish comparative relationships with other different processes, whether it is a different country or region, or the universal history of humanity . This is often referred to as a comparative timeline.

  1. Steps to make a timeline

Events are distributed chronologically in the timeline.

To develop a timeline, the following steps must be followed:

  • Determine  the scale  of it . It is necessary to decide what time period the graph will cover: if all human history, a specific government, a specific year, a specific century, or from a specific century to the present, etc.
  • Determine the main milestones . The most important or transcendental events of the information that will be represented on the line must be previously located and organized, since these great milestones will be the main ones of the graph.
  • Determine contextual information . What other milestones or events of general importance – not already specific on our topic to be addressed – should be highlighted in the timeline to give context? For example, if we want to represent the key moments of the French Revolution , we probably want to highlight historical events that accompanied it in other neighboring countries.
  • Draw the line and locate the points . The line is drawn from left to right and on it the previously determined information is distributed, in chronological order, moving towards the present (or the end of the period of interest).

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