London: A Life in Maps

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A city long shrouded in literary and historical mists--not to mention real ones--London seduces tourists and natives alike. From Big Ben to the grimy Victorian streets of Dickens novels on up to the sleek high-rises that dot the skyline of the twenty-first-century metropolis, the urban landscape of London is steeped in history, while forever responsive to the changing dictates of progress, industry, and culture. In London: A Life in Maps, acclaimed historian Peter Whitfield reveals a wealth of surprising truths and forgotten facts hidden in the city’s historic maps.

Whitfield examines nearly 200 maps spanning the last 500 years, all of which vividly demonstrate the vast changes wrought on London’s streets, open spaces, and buildings. In a rich array of colorful cartographic illustrations, the maps chronicle London’s tumultuous history, from the devastation of the Great Fire to the indelible marks left by World Wars I and II to the emergence of the West End as a fashion mecca. Whitfield reads historic sketches and detailed plans as biographical keys to this complex, sprawling urban center, and his in-depth examination unearths fascinating insights into the city of black cabs and red double-deckers. With engaging prose and astute analysis he also expertly coaxes out the subtle complexities—of social history, urban planning, and design—within the rich documentation of London’s immense and constantly changing cityscape.
London: A Life in Maps lets readers wander through the past and present of London’s celebrated streets—from Abbey Road to Savile Row—and along the way reveals the city’s captivating history, vibrant culture, and potential future.

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Editorial Reviews

Portolan - Peter Porrazzo

"[London] provides the reader with a good understanding of the evolution of one of the world's major cities, and includes many of the seminal maps for those interested in its cartographic history. It is a good book for just browsing the maps and illustrations, and it's appropriate for anyone with an interest in London and/or maps. . . . A very good value."

"[London] provides the reader with a good understanding of the evolution of one of the world's major cities, and includes many of the seminal maps for those interested in its cartographic history. It is a good book for just browsing the maps and illustrations, and it's appropriate for anyone with an interest in London and/or maps. . . . A very good value."

— Peter Porrazzo

Library Journal

Whitfield, the author of several books on maps, including Cities of the World, has produced a fascinating history of London organized around some 100 of the countless maps, panoramas, and plans created of the city over the last 500 years, going back to the earliest extant map. Arranged chronologically, each map or plan serves as the accompaniment to a chapter that in fact covers more than the map in question. Thus, an unused 1666 plan for postfire reconstruction by Christopher Wren highlights a chapter on "The London That Wren Never Saw," while an essay entitled "Mapping Poverty and Wealth" is illustrated with a colorful map section detailing the economic status of the inhabitants of Victorian London. London's lost rivers, scandalous pleasure gardens, and memorable architecture are featured in other chapters. Whitfield serves up an enjoyable mix of facts, both familiar and obscure, handsomely supported with contemporary illustrations in addition to the maps. As with any book reproducing graphics in a reduced size, some detail is lost, but anyone with an interest in the history of London or of maps generally will find much to enjoy. Recommended highly for public and academic libraries.
—Linda M. Kaufmann

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Peter Whitfield is former director of Stanfords International Map Centre in London. He is also the author of Cities of the World, New Found Lands, Astrology, The Image of the World, The Mapping of the Heavens, The Charting of the Oceans, Landmarks in Western Science, and Sir Francis Drake.

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Table of Contents

London Before the Fire
Medieval London:  The Earliest Images of the City
The Tower and Westminster Abbey
The End of the Middle Ages in London
Renaissance London Revealed
A Coronation Procession
Copperplate:  From Picture to Map
Braun and Hogenberg
Shakespeare's London
The Agas Map
Smithfield and St Bartholomew's Hospital
The Norden Panorama
Whitehall Palace
Civil War London
Maritime London
Hollar: West Central London
The Great Fire
The Great Fire and the Map of London
The Age of Elegance
The London that Wren Never Saw
St Paul's
Frost Fairs on the Thames
St James's
The West End
Whitechapel and the East End
Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens
Hogarth's London
Fashionable Suburbs
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Bedlam and Newgate
South London:  New Bridges, New Roads
Chelsea Waterworks
Marylebone Road
The City and its Institutions
The Gordon Riots
The Victorian Metropolis
Regency London
Unbuilt London
Buckingham Palace
Kensington Turnpike
London's Docks
The Railway Age
Paddington:  A Canal, a Railway, a Miniature Venice and a Teddy Bear
Trafalger Square
Gothic London
Victorian Cemeteries
Victorian Parks
Millbank:  From Prison to Art Gallery
New Roads
Dickens's London
The Great Exhibition and its Legacy
London's Vanished Rivers
Green London Preserved
Mapping Wealth and Poverty
The Shock of the New
Unfashionable Suburbs
Architecture:  Edwardian and Modernist
The Underground
Wembley and Park Royal
Road-planning:  Early Visions
The City Blitzed
The Festival of Britain
Planning the Capital
The Transformation of the Docklands
A Hoxton Childhood
A View from a Bridge
Select Bibliography
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