The 20th century was bloody, and the 21st century isn't getting off to a very good start itself. We can all name the big wars of the last hundred years, but we all know that the world wars and gulf wars were only the tip of the iceberg, especially when we start counting civil wars. Dry lists of dates and places are useful references, but don't really convey the extent of conflict in the modern era.
Enter the Nobel e-Museum. Among its many exhibits, reference works, and even games is a Shockwave-based map of 20th and early 21st century conflicts. The Conflict Map shows where various wars (listed as "Interstate War," "Colonial War," "Civil War," and World Wars I & II) took place, how long they lasted, and who was involved. The map is interactive, and defaults to a ten year display; you can readily expand the timeline to encompass any period from 1900 to 2001.
As a conceptual counterweight, the map also shows a chart of how many Nobel Peace Prizes were given during your selected period, as well as to which regions of the world the prizes went. Selecting a region shows who received the prizes.
This map is an excellent example of the value of good design as a means of conveying information. The pace and pattern of conflict becomes clear by scanning through the century; particularly notable is the shift from Interstate and Colonial wars dominating the field to the eruption of Civil wars over the latter part of the century. This sort of information design could easily be applied to mapping species extinction, toxic spills, or human rights abuses. Is anyone out there working on interactive maps of environmental or political changes?