There is almost no part of the world that has not been scarred by conflict from the cataclysms of the World Wars to regional and low intensity insurgencies. From the earliest times maps – even simple and rudimentary sketches have played a significant part in planning military operations in these conflicts. Notoriously the captured map that shows enemy positions has been an invaluable source of intelligence and it has been an axiom of military security that maps should never be marked.
However maps are also a very effective way of showing how a campaign or operation was planned and how it shaped up when the fighting began. The coloured symbols, numbers and letters and twisting arrows are a clear demonstration of the philosophy of war propounded by the Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder. “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength” - which is more widely known as “No plan survives contact with the enemy” and the lesser known axiom “Strategy is a system of expedients”. In a simple graphic form maps can set the scene, explain the plan and show what actually happened on the day.
In a modern context the Conflict History Map that combines graphics and information from Google Maps and Wikipedia is a superb tool for researching where and when these conflicts took place. It is also a valuable way of discovering what happened 25, 50 or a hundred or more years ago sometimes only a few miles from home.