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William Morgan's map of London, 1682
This extract from the BBC series 'The Beauty of Maps' shows how London was re-mapped by William Morgan after the Great Fire of London. On Sunday 2 September 1666, the Great Fire of London began reducing most of the city to ashes, and among the huge losses were many maps of the city itself. The William Morgan Map of 1682 was the first to show the whole of the City of London after the fire. Consisting of 16 separate sheets, measuring eight feet by five feet, it took six years to complete. It was an incredible undertaking and produced on a scale of 300 feet to the inch. Morgan's beautiful map symbolised the hoped-for ideal city and how London was now re-laid and redrawn after the Great Fire. This clip discusses how it was a revolution in map design, in that now layout of buildings was shown vertically, and on the basis of mathematical calculation rather than pictorially, as had previously been popular. Expert contribution from cultural historian Haillie Rubenhold and Peter Barber, Head of Maps at the British Library. The experts discuss that even though this map was a revolution in design, scale and detail, there was still a great deal that is missing or 'blended out', thus making the map of dubious use to the historian of city change. This clip was first published on the 'The Beauty of Maps' website, bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/beautyofmaps/. Please note this clip is only available in Flash.
Compare and contrast exercise:
Teachers could use this clip in two parts: (1) the image of a city destroyed by fire and then sanitised as an ordered community; (2) play the second half to reveal to students how weak and unreliable Morgan’s map might be to the contemporary historian for an exercise titled 'How accurate is this map?' Using primary sources of the day, students are to unpick and return the detail missing from William Morgan’s map in order to build up a 'fuller' picture of London in the late 17th century. For example, sources on crime, work houses, poverty, prisons, schooling and education, etc.
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