With a long history of conquest, disease, innovation and social reform, there’s more to London cartography than Harry Beck’s Tube Map.
1. John Snow’s Cholera Map
When over 500 people died of a cholera outbreak in Soho, London in 1854, John Snow mapped and identified patterns in the outbreak, clustered around the public water pump on Broad Street. This provided the evidence needed to affirm that the disease was spread through contaminated water, and not through the air, as many had thought. Read more at: 1854 Broad Street Cholera Outbreak on Wikipedia.
2. London Street Gangs
According to the London Street Gangs website, over 15,000 people in Greater London belong to one of 200+ gangs. This excellent community-based website offers a huge amount of research and news, including maps of claimed territories.
3. Charles Booth’s Poverty Maps
When the claim was made in the late 1800s that 25% of Londoners lived in abject poverty, Charles Booth criticised the figure as an exaggeration. He set out to study the truth, investigating a wide range of social indicators and often living with working-class families for weeks at a time. His team of investigators also included Beatrice Potter, who would later found the London School of Economics and New Statesman magazine.
Booth and his team found that the number had actually been under-estimated, and as much as 35% of all Londoners lived in poverty.
The classification system used on the maps is interesting in itself, for the lack of modern political correctness in the wording: for the lowest class, ‘semi-criminal’, “their only luxury is drink”, whereas the middle-class are blessed with “much intelligence”.
4. Wenceslaus Hollar’s Survey of the Great Fire of London
In 1666, the Great Fire of London ravaged 436 acres and over 13,000 homes. After the fire, the king directed Wenceslaus Holler to survey the extent of the damage. Within months, and with the help of a team of surveyors, the plans were drawn in March 1667.
5. The Modern Plague of London: Pubs!
Who better to publish a handy map of Victorian London public houses than the Temperance Society! This 1886 map borrows from John Snow’s earlier work on mapping cholera in an attempt to depict alcohol as a spreading disease.
The map also has a connection to Charles Booth: one of his team later updated the map, and was told by a policeman that, “in the interests of sobriety there should be a greater number [of pubs] than there are. For he said you get drunkenness rows where there was a crowd.”
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The last week of September is banned books week in Canada and the US. As in, not a week to ban books or celebrate their banning, but rather one to spend time discovering some of the great titles that have found themselves outlawed and to wonder at a culture that justifies the sometimes active attempt to oppress its own artifacts. In honor of this week, the American Library Association has put together a nifty list of the top ten reasons books have been historically banned (source):
The Top Ten Ludicrous Reasons To Ban A Book
- “Encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” (A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstien)
- “It caused a wave of rapes.” (Arabian Nights, or One Thousand and One Nights)
- “If there is a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it?” (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown)
- “Tarzan was ‘living in sin’ with Jane.” (Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
- “It is a real ‘downer.’” (Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank)
- “The basket carried by Little Red Riding Hood contained a bottle of wine, which condones the use of alcohol.” (Little Red Riding Hood, by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm K. Grimm)
- “One bunny is white and the other is black and this ‘brainwashes’ readers into accepting miscegenation.” (The Rabbit’s Wedding, by Garth Williams)
- “It is a religious book and public funds should not be used to purchase religious books.” (Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, by Walter A. Elwell, ed.)
- “A female dog is called a bitch.” (My Friend Flicka, by Mary O’Hara)
- “An unofficial version of the story of Noah’s Ark will confuse children.” (Many Waters, by Madeleine C. L’Engle)
The American Library Association (ALA) also has a great compendium of statistics on the banning of books. Some notable facts include that by far the most common reason for banning a book is because it is considered sexually explicit, and parents are overwhelmingly the initiators of book challenges and bans.
In the last ten years, the top ten banned/challenged books are:
1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
The top challenged classic books:
1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
The crazy thing is, people still attempt to ban books – regularly. If you live in the US and you know of a book that is being challenged or banned, you can report it on the ALA website. In the meantime, hug a librarian or independent bookseller because without them many of these classic books would no longer be in circulation.
Image Credit: Banned Books Week Banner by DML East Branch