Even in this modern global age where the internet unites us all as citizens of the world, nationality remains a hugely important part of our lives. And there’s no bigger symbol of nationality than the flags of our countries, as you can see at any major sporting event like the Olympics or the World Cup. Along with national anthems, the flags are what bring people together as a collective nation, whether against the world on a sports field or a battlefield. Some countries had the Union Jack for quite some time, not just England.
Because flags are so important and so tied in with national identity, you can tell a lot about a country’s history from the evolution of their flag over the decades or centuries. Credit Card Compare has come up with these animations of the way flags from 10 countries around the world have changed to demonstrate this:
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The Evolution Of Flags
Like most former British colonies, Australia’s flag used to be the Union Jack, and that design has remained a significant part of the design of subsequent flags as it gained its independence and developed its own identity as a nation. At the start of the 20th Century, the flag we know today began to take shape, with the Union Jack in the corner and stars to represent the Southern Cross constellation, with one larger Federation Star.
Another nation with a history of British rule, Canada wasn’t as quick as Australia to establish its own national flag after gaining independence and flew Union Jack for many years. A big changed happened in 1931 but it wasn’t until 1965 that the Union Jack ceased being the Canadian flag, which seems remarkable given how iconic the maple leaf flag has already become as part of Canada’s national identity around the world.
Both the Union Jack and the Dutch national flag have played their part in the history of flags in South Africa, which tells some of the story of the country as a whole. In 1994, with South Africa coming out of apartheid, a new design was needed in a hurry and one was created for the 1994 election as an interim design only selected a week earlier. Over 20 years later it remains a crucial part of the country’s possible move away from its darker times.
A country with a history as fascinating and varied as China’s was always likely to have many variations of flags over the centuries and you can see that here. From the Qing dynasty’s dragon through the times where empires and republics rose and fell to the Soviet years, the holders of power have always dictated what the flags looked like, and so has been the case with the current flag, which reflects the country’s Communist Party and its people with its stars.
United States of America
The flag is as important in everyday American life as in almost any country you could care to mention and this comes from the significance it played in the birth of it as a nation after it won independence from the British throne. More than any other example here you can see the history of the USA in the evolution of the Stars and Stripes, not least in the practical sense of stars being added as each new state became part of the union.
These animations are good at demonstrating the sudden shifts in politics that can lead to dramatic changes in flag design, as we’ve already seen in South Africa for example. Another case is in Portugal, where the designs were generally variations on a theme over the centuries, and almost always on a white background. But when the monarchy fell in the early 20th Century, suddenly green and red took the fore as the colors of the Republican Party, and so they remain.
A country with rich and varied history, Egypt of course has a rich and varied history of flag designs too, from the very early block colors of caliphates over a thousand years ago, through to the Ottoman Empire years to the mid 20th Century when the revolution saw the arrival of the familiar black red and white colors. They represent the pre-revolution time (red), the bloodless coup (white) and the end of oppression (black) respectively.
Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador all have very similar flags, because they were all part of what was known as Gran Colombia. The main difference between the three of them is the ratio of yellow, with both Colombia and Ecuador keeping the 2:1:1 ratio, while Venezuela went for the more usual tricolor design. Every flag tells a story and the colors on the Colombian flag represent riches (yellow), the sky (blue) and blood (red), which symbolises the struggle for independence.
The symbolism of images comes through in the history of the Mongolian flag, which has almost always featured the Soyombo symbol, which represents fire, sun, moon, earth and water and is the national symbol. However, there have been an amazing number of other symbols and imagery on the various versions of the flag, including the socialist star for most of the 20th Century, and these give the Mongolian flags a real place in telling the story of the modern country.
As we’ve seen in many of these flags and their stories, colors are often chosen to represent either the history of the nation or the characteristics associated with its people and in Hungary many of the flags over the years have featured red (representing strength), white (fidelity) and green (hope). These colors first appeared in the 13th century version of the flag and while political events have occasionally seen them replaced, they have always returned and look set to stay.