Thursday, January 26, 2006

Historical miscellany

Dropping by the excellent Things Magazine tonight, I’ve found one of the best repositories of historical maps of cities there could possibly be online. And of course, when I visited the London page, and another site linked from it, I started to think yet again about London. — Although not before I’d also looked at another recommendation which seems to be mostly maps of Swiss towns and cities.

Handy, then, that I clicked into Wikipedia’s page about London’s streams and rivers (now all fascinatingly hidden underground) — this is the real value of a site like Wikipedia. Many people call for its destruction but I can’t think of another way to get a comprehensive list and helpful links about such a subject on a single page. Can you?

To further business. We don’t often think too much about the now fragmentary and evanescent ‘street history’ of London. Mostly we think of the great fire or the menace of the Spanish Armada, but not how Moorgate got its name, or whether the new, shining walls of the corporations can measure up to those of the Romans. Nor do they think of the hidden delights like Bunhill cemetery, which I encountered before a job interview near Old Street, and in which William Blake is buried.

Which is all very strange, because in London, the modern world and the open wells of living history coexist on the streets. So next time you wander your city, do it with your eyes open.

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