Socio-Spatial Mobility and Urban Environments in the 19th Century City

Don Lafreniere, Michigan Technological University
Jason Gilliland, Western University

We know that the decision where to live is based largely on where one is in their lifecourse. Moves are triggered primarily by changes in family composition, job changes, economic hardship, the desire to reduce the daily journey to work, or, often, a combination of these factors. The decision or need to move affords individuals an opportunity to choose an environment that best meets their needs or desires. With voluntary moves, individuals attempt to improve their overall quality of life through increases in earned income, job satisfaction, social/familial ties, or improvements in their dwelling or neighbourhood quality. Despite these understandings, little work has been done to examine how an individual’s residential conditions changed over time. A wealth of research exists on the changes in home ownership, and a notable literature has reviewed changes in the residence itself, but few have concerned themselves with the greater neighbourhood environment. Even less work has been done evaluating how residential mobility was associated with one’s desire to be socially mobile. This paper presents a historical GIS approach to uncovering changes in individuals’ and families’ residences and workplaces, and their corresponding effects on their ability to be socially mobile over the decade from 1881-1891. By harnessing the Imag(in)ing London HGIS, we follow the same individuals, over time, and evaluate the changes in their not only their occupations and workplace, but also the quality of their dwelling, or residential environment, as well as their broader neighbourhood environment. We use the changes in the environment as a measure of social mobility and critique the impact these residential moves have on the daily journey to work. This unique geospatial view of the interplay between residential, workplace, and social mobility provides a new perspective on daily life in early industrializing cities.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 120. Urban Historical GIS