Title: Combining the Local and Global Scales: London’s Nineteenth Century ‘Ghost Acres’
Abstract: Digital history methods make it possible to explore globalization in the nineteenth century at the local and global level. Five-feet-to-the-mile Ordnance Survey maps of Greater London record the industry in circa 1870 and 1895, providing a means to identify the major industries in the metropolis. During the nineteenth century the soap, candle, leather, biscuit, drug and construction industries all grew well beyond the limits of the local environment to supply all their raw materials, so they turned to overseas ‘ghost acres.’ Soap and candle makers became dependent first on Russian tallow and then west African palm oil and tallow from the growing sheep herds in Australia and New Zealand. The leather industry required skins and hides from all over the world and a growing range of tannins to overcome the local scarcity of oak bark. Biscuits relied on imported flour, sugar and edible oils. The drug industry needed opium and cinchona bark. House builders required timber from Canada and northern Europe. Linking a GIS database of London’s industry with a qualitative database of British imports and a text-mined database of commodities in the British world provides a new methodologies to identify and follow these relationships during the long nineteenth century.
Bio: Dr. Jim Clifford’s many contributions to environmental history, historical GIS, and the digital humanities are only surpassed by his dedication to public engagement and Active History, particularly through the very successful Canadian History blog of the same name. His keynote lecture will encourage practitioners and policymakers to think across larger scales, just as it will encourage academics to develop projects that have the ability to speak truth to power. In 2018-2019, Dr. Clifford was Director of the Historical GIS lab at the University of Saskatchewan, and in this role he offers outstanding leadership in digital humanities project and data development.