London in Maps:

From Sixteenth-Century Woodcuts to Present-Day Digital Resources

(mit Exkursion nach London)

Di 10-12

Maps are fascinating semantic systems combining visual and textual elements. They embody ways of looking at a city; they are about what is where, but they are also about the perception of space. Maps of London are sources of factual information, but they also stimulate the imagination, suggesting ideas of what London and London life is all about. They can be extraordinary works of art, such as the earliest maps of London which were populated by tiny Elizabethan Londoners doing everyday things. When, in the course of the eighteenth century, London became the biggest city in the world, maps became an essential means of navigating and making sense of a place that no Londoner could ever hope to know in its entirety.

From the nineteenth century on, maps have been used to find answers to new questions. In Victorian times Dr John Snow discovered the link between cholera and polluted water by mapping the deadly effect of the disease. Charles Booth began to map poverty and crime. Recent developments in information technology have brought about entirely new ways of mapping London, visualising things such as ethnic diversity and language use, the ways in which Londoners use the underground, the mental maps of cab drivers, the average sense of well-being in various parts of London, life expectancy and causes of death, crime, accidents, homelessness and the ways in which London communicates with the rest of the world through air traffic, twitter and photographs posted on the internet. Such maps may not look like conventional maps any more, using new ways of combining visual and textual elements.

Individual maps, their significance as cultural artefacts, textual/visual semantic systems and historical sources as well as various approaches to mapping will be studied in depth. The material to be worked on will be made available in a Moodle room; you will receive your Moodle password via e-mail. The following website provides a good first introduction to some current ways of mapping London:

In connection with this seminar, I am hoping to organise a five-day study tour to London in September. Further particulars concerning the study tour will be made available during the first session of this seminar.

Requirements: thorough preparation for each session, active participation, and written work according to your particular Studienordnung. As always: read, think, enjoy (!), annotate  and look things up if necessary.

Just in case your application is rejected by the LSF system: If you want to do this course because you are genuinely interested, you will be most welcome, no matter what LSF says. Please get in touch with who will enrol you manually. The worst that might happen to you is that you cannot do a Leistungsnachweis if you lack the formal requirements.