Vernacular GIS: Mapping Early Modern Geography and Socioeconomics

  • Alexi BakerEmail author


One of the key objections made against the use of geographic information systems (GIS) in the study of history is that they cannot contend with the geographical imprecision and gaps in the surviving records from the early modern period. The time, funding and manpower necessary to produce GIS are also a concern. However, these obstacles can largely be overcome through the usage of digital maps which are ‘vernacular’ rather than geospatially precise—i.e. which depict locations as contemporaries typically described and understood them, with respect to basic geography and natural and man made landmarks, rather than striving for mathematical precision. Such vernacular resources can be created with digital mapping programs which are now readily available and often by just one historian or student rather than by a team. The chapter shows how they can be employed to map the geographical and socio-economic landscapes of populations and cities in early modern Europe, how this bypasses key concerns about the use of GIS, what benefits this can yield for research, and what concerns and complications remain. The primary example given is the author’s mapping of the scientific instrument trade of early eighteenth-century London.


Geographic Information System Early Modern Period Instrument Maker Rent Level Geographic Information System Technology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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