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I'm aware that I can add a filter to Google Analytics to see results for a particular subdirectory, but I'm not clear on whether or not it's possible to use that filter retroactively.
In this particular case, I'd like to see the geographical data for visitors to a particular subdirectory only, for data that has already been collected over the past few years.
Is this possible?

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Although it's not totally clear, why this is not mentioned in the general suppor article about filters, it is noted in the description of Search-and-replace filters.

Like all filters, search-and-replace filters only apply to hits collected after you've applied the filter to the view (filters cannot change historical data).

Nevertheless, you are able to filter existing data for only a part of your visitors or sessions. You can use segments for this. You can create a custom segment, which will include sessions or users, who have visited this specific subdirectory. Please note, that the sessions can contain visits to other pages as well, but for geographic information, this should be fine, since it's not changing within a session.

You can use something like this:

enter image description here

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You could also create a custom report using a dimension of page and country, with a report filter to restrict to the particular subdirectory traffic only (similar to the following example). This would be retroactive depending on the data available in the View and the report filter will not affect anything other than the applicable custom report:
Example setup of a custom report with a report filter applied

Resulting custom report

More information on creating and managing custom reports can be found in the GA Help Center: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1151300?hl=en

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