Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 April 2020
The theory and methods of space syntax can help to rebalance the prevailing cultural perspective, which views maps as ideological representations, with an analytical approach that emphasizes maps as sources for understanding space and spatial relationships embedded in built forms. The quantitative descriptions of urban street networks produced by space syntax analyses can be used to formulate and test hypotheses about patterns of urban movement, encounter and socio-economic activity in the past that can help in the interpretation of other historical source materials to give an overall account of urban spatial culture. In this article, the authors explain how space syntax, a theory and method originally developed in the field of architectural research, is making a distinctive contribution to research in social and urban history. The key principles of the method are explained by clarifying the relationship of space syntax to HGIS (Historical Geographical Information Systems) and through a worked example of research undertaken into political meeting places. A survey of research into the urban history of the nineteenth-century city using space syntax is used to highlight a number of important methodological themes and also demonstrates the range of innovative contributions that this interdisciplinary approach is able to advance. A final, theoretical, section reflects on maps and the practice of ‘mapping’ from a space syntax perspective.
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14 The authors would like to acknowledge Dr Katrina Navickas, Reader in History at the University of Hertfordshire, for her integral role in developing the political meetings research presented in this section and for permission to represent her data in this context.
15 The research project: ‘Applying space syntax methods to historical data: mapping popular political meetings in 19th century British cities’ is part-funded by an Architectural Research Fund grant (2016) from the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture and is expected to conclude in 2019.
17 A part of the newspaper data was text-mined using a Python code developed with the British Library Labs team in their Digital Scholarship department – see Navickas, K., and Crymble, A., ‘From Chartist newspaper to digital map of grassroots meetings, 1841–1844: documenting workflows’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 22 (2017), 232–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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