Since 1906, when Teddy Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to travel abroad while in office, the frequency and pace of presidential travel has grown exponentially.

Thankfully, the level of scholarship happening at Richmond makes it easy for anyone to dive into the travel history of presidents and secretaries of state. Our Digital Scholarship Lab — already known for producing critical knowledge in easy-to-access formats — launched The Executive Abroad, a new mapping project that visualizes all trips abroad taken by U.S. presidents and secretaries of state.

National Geographic has taken notice of the project.

“As Trump prepares to make his first international trips to the Middle East and Western Europe, the map conveys how significantly travel by the executive branch has grown over the past 11 decades,” said Rob Nelson, director of the Digital Scholarship Lab. “In the first decade of the 20th century, presidents Roosevelt and Taft together made three trips to two places. A century later, George W. Bush and Barack Obama together made more than 300 trips all over the globe.”

The Executive Abroad allows users to pick a president or secretary of state to map their travels. The graph shows the frequency of and details about visits to each geopolitical region over time.

This awesome collection of data was made possible with the help of 16 first-year students in associate professor Tim Barney’s class The Rhetorical Lives of Maps.

“Maps are a wonderful way to illustrate history,” said Barney, who teaches rhetoric and communication studies. “Maps not only showcase historical background, but are also important articulations of American national interest and international aspirations.

“Our class discovered that beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, foreign travel by presidents became the norm. This both reflected and reinforced the U.S. government's more active role as a global power in the 20th century,” he said.

The Executive Abroad is part of the larger American Panorama project, which has received national media attention from The Chronicle of Higher Education, National Geographic, Gizmodo, Slate, and other national publications, most recently for Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America.