Mapping the London Moment

by Finlay McCracken

Map of London.

One of our goals of the London Moment project is to observe the interactions between various governments groups (governments-in-exile, academics, activists, and others) cooperating in London during the Second World War.  For this reason, we are in the process of creating an interactive map to visualize the interactions between the international actors living in London and its urban topography.  For several months now, my colleagues have been collecting relevant data (over one hundred addresses) so that they can be plotted on a map of London.  These addresses contain, for example, the locations of embassies, hotel rooms where important leaders lived, and government offices, but also bars, restaurants, intellectual societies, and other meeting places such as private homes.  Furthermore, using a georeferenced map, these addresses will be categorized by function and the people or groups who inhabited them.  This would allow us to, among other things, observe the spatial dimension in the interactions (or the lack thereof) between the governments-in-exile, the British government, and other actors present in London during the London Moment. 

Collecting the data to be used in this map is a challenging undertaking. Due to aerial bombing, politics, and logistical reasons, some important historical actors repeatedly changed their lodgings.  Additionally, despite the primary sources allowing us to create a rich chronology for certain addresses, our knowledge of others is not as developed due to gaps in the source material.  We also know that certain events occurred, but we do not know their exact addresses and are thus unable to plot them on the map; the same goes for people whose addresses are unknown to us. 

Our map of the London Moment seeks to examine more than just the governments-in-exile; we will also include anticolonial movements, academic circles, and others, such as those acting in the financial sector.  By expanding the scope, the map will show the interaction of members within these groups, but also the possible interactions, if any, between various groups.  We are also going to include photos and other information about the addresses, so that users can use the map as a tool to explore London and learn about the places where people lived and worked. 

The interactive aspect also permits us to focus on certain people, for whom very good records exist, and show the places they frequented.  We intend to create special “tours” for these people, so that users can see where certain persons of interest spent their time.  Data on certain important figures will be lacking, so the people included in this feature will likely be those for whom robust information on their day-to-day lives exists.  We are enthusiastic for the map to be up and running so that we may share it with you; most likely it will be ready by the end of summer. 


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