do historians use maps?
will have used a map at some point in their life - normally to find out
how to get somewhere. After all, this is probably the main purpose of
most maps. However, throughout history maps have been created for a whole
host of other reasons. These include:
- to show
who owned land
- to record
what land was used for
- to show
the location of natural resources
- to determine
- to show
It is this
variety that makes them so useful to historians. By looking at a map from
a particular date, historians can find out a lot of information about
the way in which the land was used and, therefore, how people lived. Moreover,
by comparing similar maps from different periods historians can discover
how an area has changed and developed and suggest reasons for the change.
from the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey of Durham, 1857. (Image
courtesy of Durham County Record Office, ref county grid 33.4)
maps and their uses
As well as
all the national maps that historians can use, there are lots of locally
produced maps available. These can provide a range of useful information
that can be difficult to find elsewhere. Examples of local maps include
enclosure maps, tithe maps, road, rail and canal maps, and farm maps.
The map we're going to use in our investigation is one that shows the
coalfields of the North East. It was surveyed by a man called I T W Bell
and was published in 1850. This map is interesting because not only does
it show the location of all the coal mines in the North East at the time,
but it shows how the transport network had started to develop to serve
ready to continue, you can choose to go to either the Ordnance
Survey maps or the coalfield map.
of County Durham by John Carey, 1801. (Image courtesy of Durham
University Library, XL 912.4281).
are Ordnance Survey maps?
maps are perhaps the best known series of maps in the United Kingdom and
have a world-wide reputation for quality. Although used by a whole range
of people today, from walkers to motorists to pizza-delivery companies,
the first Ordnance Survey maps were designed to be used by the Army. Between
1793 and 1815 Britain was at war with France and the government was worried
that the French might try to invade. To help them plan their defence they
ordered the Board of Ordnance to carry out a survey of the whole country,
starting at the south coast. The first Ordnance Survey map covered the
county of Kent and was published in 1801 and a map covering Essex appeared
shortly after. Twenty years later a third of the country had been surveyed.
The surveyors worked their way up the country and it was not until 1857
that the survey of Co. Durham was completed.
many other sources of information, are quickly out of date and Ordnance
Survey continually resurveys the country to make sure its maps are accurate.
This is great news for historians who are able to use the maps to compare
how places have changed over time.