Locating London's Past: Mapping the capital
Launched at the tail end of last year, Locating London's Past is an interactive website that allows the user to overlay historical data onto maps of the city. It's another fine example in the ever-expanding field of digital tools that allow the amateur access to research methods which would normally require multiple trips to the library.
According to the jargon-heavy press release, the site "provides an intuitive GIS [geographic information system] interface enabling researchers to map and visualize textual and artefactual data relating to seventeenth and eighteenth-century London". The interface displays two historical maps -- the standard John Rocque one from 1746, and the first accurate OS map from 1869-80, both rendered in impressive detail -- and a modern Google map of London. On the left of the screen are the datasets, which cover a wide range of subjects, including parish registers, plague deaths, tax records, court sessions from the Old Bailey, archaeological records from the Museum of London and more.
The data come from a wide range of periods, and don't necessarily correspond to the maps; for example the image above shows plague deaths in wards of the City of London in 1666. This allows some interesting comparisons; for example, seeing how the pattern of the city's population growth in the 18th century was in part influenced by the plague deaths some two centuries earlier.
The site does have some minor technical issues (on more than one occasion it refused to load at all) and figuring out how to incorporate the data took a little getting used to; fortunately, there's a tutorial video which explains the basics. Some of the data tends toward the obscure, but the map is set up to permit additional datasets to be added later on. For the lay enthusiast and professional historian alike, there is much of interest to be found here.
From the archive:
Anne Roberts explores the incidence of plague in England from 1348 to 1679.
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