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  • Mapping modernity: the London Postal Map of 1856

Kearney, Helen L., 2017, Thesis, Mapping modernity: the London Postal Map of 1856 PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The London Postal Map was introduced in 1856. It drew a boundary around London, and then divided the city into ten districts: EC, WC, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW.

It was a technological innovation that greatly increased the speed and efficiency of the movement of post around London, in a period when the postal service was the primary form of communication. Service became incredibly quick, frequent, and accessible; almost as instantaneous as the internet today. Deliveries began at 7.22am, with deliveries on the hour, every hour throughout the day. Letters posted at 7.30pm in central London would reach outer London suburbs that same evening.

This thesis considers a period from 1830 until 1918, corresponding to the period of the beginnings of the Map’s story, to a major change in the Map during the First World War. It describes the origins of the Postal Map, and then explores its effects in the context of a rapidly developing city. It speculates on meanings of mapping the city where new names and boundaries are introduced and visualized. It investigates the development of the city, understanding the post as an essential part of London’s infrastructure. It considers how people experienced a city in which millions of letters, thousands of postmen, and hundreds of mail carts were moving each week.

The Postal Map is argued to be one of the causal factors of modernity within London; it meant urban space was linked to a particular temporality – modern, fast-paced, connected. It changed how Londoner’s conceived their city through providing a new framework for labelling places in relation to each other, stating what was east, what was west.

The project uses the extensive archives held by the Postal Museum, which include hundreds of maps, to tell the story of the Postal Map. It combines methodologies from social history, technological and administrative histories, mapping theory, urban planning history, and design history to gain a rich understanding of the full spatial implications of this designed object: the London Postal Map.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Funders: AHRC
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2017 15:49
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2017 15:49
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2813

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