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Imagining London, 1770-1900 by A. Robinson

By A. Robinson

Combining a different evaluation of metropolitan visible tradition with special textual research, this interdisciplinary research explores the connection among the 2 towns Londoners inhabited: the actual areas of the city, whose socially stratified and gendered topography used to be formed by way of purchaser tradition and unregulated capitalism; and an imaginary "London," an "unreal urban" which mirrored and stimulated their knowing of, and activities in, the "real" atmosphere.

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Example text

For Southey, to see the metropolis whole was to exult in imposing an imaginative order on what exceeds one’s perceptual grasp: I would have climbed St. 31 One should, however, be wary of imputing the desire of Londoners to obtain an overview of their sprawlingly disparate city solely to the pursuit of power (compare pp. 80–2). Recent critics who make this assumption should be aware that, in drawing consciously or unconsciously on French Situationist accounts of urbanism and psycho-geography, they are projecting these theorists’ perceptions of state control in the France of the 1960s onto the nineteenth century.

The implication is that both ‘scopic technologies’ were emblematic of an emergent disciplinary regime which sought to effect subjection through constant visibility. This view is rooted in an interpretation of ‘modernity’ as the pursuit of control through instrumental rationality. 32 To these can be added the introduction of house-numbering, and of the Census in 1801, together with unprecedentedly detailed mapping, such as Richard Horwood’s 26 inch to 1 mile map, showing every house in the area between Islington, Limehouse, Kennington and Brompton.

The exclusivity Nash was selling to the ‘quality’ was also something which parvenus wanted to buy into, either directly or vicariously through merchandise which advertised its association with the self-congratulatory exuberance of the 1820s. 41 The new embellishments were commemorated in books of engraved prints, such as Thomas Hosmer Shepherd’s Metropolitan Improvements (1827–30) and London and its Environs in the Nineteenth Century (1829–31). 43 Elmes’s blatant propagandism has led critics to assert erroneously that Shepherd’s illustrations mark ‘a departure from an earlier “Enlightenment” approach to depicting the city’ where topographical views accommodated both elegant promenaders and ‘working members of the “lower” orders’.

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