Intersecting Spaces

Global North/UK/London

Xingyuan Han

Dissertation Title

Mapping London in the Sixteenth-Century

Xingyuan Han

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The world behind the map

This map is very important in terms of historical value; it gives a glimpse of the authentic sixteenth-century London, unlike maps from earlier periods which were neither physically accurate nor intended to be physically accurate, it allows the viewer to clearly see each architectural form in the early modern period. As an exemplar of the outstanding cultural value of Braun and Hogenberg's work, it offers very strong representation. Some small details are a little fuzzy, however, while the large structural images allow a certain level of precision, the division of functional blocks, reflecting the state of urban economic development at that time, is more appropriate for the medium in the case of smaller structures.

Visitors to Elizabethan London may have experienced difficulty in finding their way around the city, as no horses could be hired, and it was also impossible to buy a pocket map as a guide to find the way around the crossing and twisting streets. The most convenient way from one side of London was by boat, the River Thames acting as an ‘urban motorway’. Instead of finding the nearest bus stop or underground station, it was easier to walk down some steps and find a waterman waiting to take guests to their destinations. At that time, there were 2000 rowing boats plying up and down the Thames and dozens of them are shown on the Braun and Hogenberg maps. The map also provides many clues as to how Londoners spent their time. Archery was extremely popular, and on the Finsbury field, a group of men in short cassocks armed with bows and arrows were seen, who strolled around the field as though on a modern golf course. On the Southwark side, people are walking alongside the river with their dogs, and to the east of the Thames are some bars, thereby indicating some of the Londoners’ entertainment activities.

About the author

Before I started my MA course at RCA, I studied Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. And during the Museum Studies period,I also had my internship at the Polar Museum in Cambridge. I have also worked at the ICOMOS for several months. All of those experiences inspired me a lot from the museum perspective. My research interests are mainly focused on museum interpretation, exhibition and visitor engagement.