I've been looking for a while for Historical GIS datasets. In a lot of places (also in answers here at Stack Exchange), people are referring to a great dataset at ThinkQuest, which contains shapefiles for many years inbetween 2000 BC and 1994 for the whole world (I am interested in Europe, in particular).

But since ThinkQuest has been discontinued, the archive is only accessible through the ThinkQuest Library. Unfortunately, this archive does not contain the actual downloads of the datasets...

Does anybody know where I can find these datasets, or is there maybe someone who downloaded these in the past willing to share them here?

  • 1
    I think you should put this question to "Open Data' since it is not related to GIS or Remote Sensing... Maybe put your question into this opendata.stackexchange.com and somebody might have an answer for you ?
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 16:39
  • Ah! That's very useful. I was not aware of the open data stackexchange. Thanks! Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 16:59
  • I have posted my question here as well. I will update my question or add an answer when I get relevant information in that topic. Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 17:06
  • The general 'looking for historical GIS data' would be a good fit for opendata.SE ... but I don't know that it'd be a better place to ask than on here. And looking for people who might've downloaded that specific dataset would likely be better on here, as you'll get a more specific audience.
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 17:47
  • @carelfransen Last night I was doing some research on google and I found some interesting maps on the LIbrary of Congress has their historical collections maps on that site loc.gov/maps/collections I am not sure where are you from and if you are not from USA maybe check it out similar to the one in your country or maybe check out the university's Geography department. Just thought.
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


I have just been trying to find these historical GIS datasets from ThinkQuest Library I was looking for, but this time I was successful!

I managed to find a backup of the file at GitHub, where the complete dataset can be downloaded.

  • I tried these, but it seems the projection info (.prj file) is missing?
    – Mike Honey
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 6:35
  • That's correct, but you can just define them as WGS 1984. That works for me. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:51
  • Any tips on how to achieve that? Download .prj from spatialreference.org/ref/epsg/wgs-84 ?
    – Mike Honey
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 3:52
  • What software do you use? In ArcGIS or QGIS you can adjust the Coordinate System of the data frame and visualise the maps on the fly. Or you can use the Define Projection tool to add the projection data to the files themselves. WGS 1984 is one of the standard projections, and thus available in all cartography software. Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 5:25
  • Thanks for your help. I have QGIS but it seems really complex. I'll have a go following your notes. I'm really just a viz guy, so a map user not a builder. Is sharing maps always this hard?
    – Mike Honey
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 3:25

May not help but EDINA maps has GIS/CAD data back to mid 1800's for the UK.

Free to download with a institution signin.

  • Thank you! I did not know about edinamaps, but I checked it out. I am in particular looking for mainland Europe, though, and the shapefiles from ThinkQuest I mentioned covered the whole world. I edited my question to clarify. Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 11:31

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