Digital Humanities 2019

Humphrey Southall is presenting an update of our work on the GB1900 gazetteer at the Digital Humanities 2019 conference in Utrecht, Netherlands, in the session “Space Territory GeoHumanities” from 11 to 12.30 on July 9th, 2019. This includes a comparison between the final GB1900 data and several other “open”, free-to-use gazetteers of Britain: Geonames, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) gazetteer,  the Ordnance Survey’s Open Names and 50K gazetteers, and the computerised version of the Survey of English Place Names created by the DEEP project.

Utrecht, as shown on map in our International Map of the World server

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Download problem for protected data resolved

We think we’ve resolved the issues that registered UK Federation users were having with downloading our protected data from A Vision of Britain through Time.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

N.B. For the time being you may find it requires two attempts to receive the first requested data set.


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Problem with protected download data from Vision of Britain

Apologies if you are having problems with downloading our protected data from A Vision of Britain through Time.

We are aware of the problem, and are working on finding the cause. However, our current capacity to sort this kind of issue is very limited so it may take some time to resolve.

The rest of A Vision of Britain through Time is working normally. This includes downloads for all data we make freely available that is not under the protected system – i.e. statistics, most raster maps, county boundaries and GB1900 data.

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GB1900 volunteer motivations article published

Last week saw the online publication of our latest GB1900 offering, an article about volunteer motivations. It is based on in-depth interviews with six of our most committed volunteers together with an online survey of wider opinions which was open to all volunteers who registered to participate in the project. The article is published by the Historical Methods Journal, and the abstract can be found here:

Citizen science through old maps: Volunteer motivations in the GB1900 gazetteer-building project

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Historical GIS in Japan

The GBHGIS team have just returned from a productive trip to Japan. We were very pleased to be invited to visit Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto to give a intensive short course on Historical GIS to the postgraduate students there. The course material gave both a theoretical and a practical introduction on how to use Geographical Information Systems for historical research. The students learnt about and successfully utilized a variety of open-source geo-spatial software components culminating in the creation of their own mini historical GIS projects based on Japanese data.


We were also each invited to give a guest lecture at the Human Geographical Society of Japan Annual Meeting at Nara University. Humphrey spoke about using British Census statistics to study long running trends for individual localities and Paula spoke about her PhD research on the spatial distribution of historical tax assessments. Professor Keiji Yano (Ritsumeikan University) then presented some observations on the development of historical GIS and the resources available for it in the United Kingdom. This led into a discussion on how the Society could best move forward towards creating a similar network of resources for Japanese scholars to use in their own historical GIS projects.

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GB1900 in use – GB1900 Works

CaptureGB1900WorksThe first example of someone doing something interesting with the GB1900 gazetteer data was published this last week. Jim Clifford based at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada has used the abridged data to identify all locations associated with “works”, looking particularly at sites relating to the building and timber industries. This is a work in progress, but a good example of something we would not have thought of. You can search by location, toggle the dot layers on and off and filter for particular words, try “gas”. You can see the site as he develops it here: GB1900 Works Website

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Summer publicity


Conference venue

Following on from the successful launch event held for GB1900 at the beginning of July we spent mid-July attending the 17th International Conference for Historical Geographers held in the old library at the University of Warsaw in Poland. During the week long conference Paula presented about GB1900, ‘Crowd-sourcing “Big Data” from old maps: Outcomes from the GB1900 Project‘ in a session on ‘Citizen Science and Crowd-sourcing in Historical Geography’ and Humphrey presented what we’ve been working on behind the scenes on our underlying structure ‘The GB Historical GIS Administrative Unit Ontology: recent developments’ in a session based around ‘Ontologies and databases for historical places’. Humphrey also gave a keynote entitled ‘Spaces, places, features and units: Web-enabling historical geography’ on the second day of the conference.

GB1900 was also the focus for a poster ‘GB1900: Extracting benchmark datasets from historic maps‘ we prepared for the University of Portsmouth Research and Innovation conference 2018 held at the beginning of September.

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GB1900 historical gazetteer launch

Monday saw the launch of the final version of the GB1900 historical gazetteer data-set at a special event organised at the Institute of Historical Research in London. The event was also a celebration of the work of all the volunteers who did the crowd-sourcing. It was well attended with a mixture of volunteers who worked on the project, project partners and other interested parties.

The data is being made available in three formats:

(i) as the raw transcriptions exactly as the volunteers input the names

(ii) as a cleaned version giving the agreed text string for each co-ordinate, plus the name of the modern local authority and modern parish (in rural areas)

(iii) as an abridged cleaned version giving the agreed text string for each co-ordinate, plus the modern local authority and modern parish (in rural areas) but excluding the most common abbreviations for things such as F.P.

The data sets can now be downloaded directly from the data access section of the Vision of Britain through Time website

The data has also been incorporated into place name searching of the six inch map scans at the National Library of Scotland and will be included in the List of Historic Place names for Wales created by The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.


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New article published on potential links between coal-fired air pollution and long-term health

We have just had a new article published in the BMJ Open journal. This article results from a collaboration with researchers at the Medical Research Council’s Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton:

Evaluating the long-term consequences of air pollution in early life: geographical correlations between coal consumption in 1951/1952 and current mortality in England and Wales.

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GBH GIS: Providing spatial frameworks for British history

The Vision of Britain site is the main public face of the Great Britain Historical GIS, but we are also supplying boundary data and other resources to online partners:

The National Library of Wales — Welsh Tithe Maps

This project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is conserving over a thousand Welsh tithe maps but also using crowd-sourcing to create a place-name index. Each map generally covers a single parish, so our boundaries provide an integrating framework.

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 15.55.22

The National Library of Scotland — Scottish parish boundaries

The NLS are another of our partners in the GB1900 project, and they are also using our boundaries, this time for Scotland:

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 15.59.33

King’s College London — Mapping the Medieval Countryside

This is a major research project dedicated to making the medieval inquisitions post mortem, listings of people’s property when they died, more widely available and accessible through a digital edition. It was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. There are no comprehensive maps of actual medieval boundaries, so the site uses our early nineteenth century boundaries to help provide context.

English Place Names Society — Historical Gazetteer of England’s Place-Names

This site is a bit different, as rather than using our boundaries it uses our web map server to supply historical base maps; the way this works means the base mapping comes straight from our server to their users’ web browsers. For example:

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 15.57.27

This site was created by the Jisc-funded DEEP project (Digital Exposure of England’s Place-names), and we also assisted them by supplying point coordinates for each parish, computed from our digital parish boundaries. The main sources for the gazetteer are the county surveys carried out by the Survey of English Place Names, started in 1923, but don’t try looking for places in Hampshire — they have not started that survey yet.

We have made these resources available to these non-commercial UK-based projects free of charge. However, our main source of income is licensing digital boundary data for commercial and non-UK use. For details, contact us at

Humphrey Southall

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