We have adapted our Survival Worldwide animation to visualise life table data from the Human Lifetable Database maintained by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Rostock, Germany), the Department of Demography at the University of California (Berkeley, USA), and the Institut national d'études démographiques (Paris, France).
This database includes the life-tables drawn up for a wide range of countries, going back to 1806 in France. In fact France, with their annual life-tables established by Napoleon, provide some of the best graphical illustrations of their violent and tragic history - we start with the first campaign against Russia and the Battle of Austerlitz, then go on through 1812, the Battle of Waterloo, the Crimean War and the staggering effect of the First World War. For females, the 1918-1919 flu epidemic in young women shows up.
The influence of these historical events is best illustrated by looking at the hazard or force-of-mortality curves, but for long-term narratives the survival curves can be powerful. Look at blacks in the US, or even the recent life-expectancy of aboriginals in Australia.
See How long are you going to live for discussion of the statistical methods used.