Archived entries for history

Mapping the Social World: From Aggregates to Individuals | Limn

Belgian astronomer Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874) introduced to the human sciences the idea of the average man, of the regularity and predictability of average behaviors, as opposed to individual behaviors, which are random and especially unpredictable. When human traits, such as size, become “normally” distributed, say according to a bell curve, their average supposedly represents a superior ontological reality, a whole comprised of specific properties, distinct individual cells. This idea would be the basis of future quantitative social sciences, Emile Durkheim’s Le Suicide being the prototype: sociology is not the uniting of individual psychologies.

via Mapping the Social World: From Aggregates to Individuals | Limn.

London, 1560 – 1693


Braun and Hogenberg, Civitates Orbis Terrarum I A. Anonymous engraving circa 1560.


Norden’s map of Westminster, surveyed and published 1593.


John Norden & Pieter Van den Keere, 1593


London. 1616. Visscher.

A Plan of the City and Liberties of London after the Dreadful Conflagration in the Year 1666

“This is an engraving of Wenceslaus Hollar’s map of London after the fire. The white area shows the extent of the ruins – 436 acres in total (373 acres within the City walls and 63 outside). This was about one-third of the total size of London at the time. Over the winter this area became the haunt of thieves. They looted the destroyed buildings and dragged passers-by into cellars, robbing them and leaving them for dead. People were afraid to go there at night. The rebuilding started in a piecemeal fashion as and when people found the money. Samuel Rolle commented in 1668 ‘Is London a village that I see, the houses in it stand so scatteringly?’ He also noticed that people were reluctant to move into their new, isolated, homes: ‘they refrain to go to them till their neighbourhood be increased’.”See more


London, 1695 Robert Morden (detail from Middlesex in Camden’s Brittannia)


Londini Angliae regni metropolis delineatio accuratissima / autore F. de Witt; ca. 1:13.000; Amsterdam : F. de Witt, c. 1693


Two revolutions

There were, we may oversimplify, two revolutions in mid-seventeenth century England. The one which succeeded established the sacred rights of property (abolition of feudal tenures, no arbitrary taxation), gave political power to the propertied (sovereignty of Parliament and common law, abolition of prerogative courts), and removed all impediments to the triumph of the ideology of the men of property – the protestant ethic. There was, however, another revolution which never happened, though from time to time it threatened. This might have established communal property, a far wider democracy in political and legal institutions, might have disestablished the state church and rejected the Protestant ethic.

Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down:
Radical Ideas in the English Revolution, Penguin; New Ed edition, 1991, via English Revolution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Mercator by Nicholas Crane

The great sixteenth-century cartographers, of whom Mercator would become the greatest, required two very different skills. They had to be able to garner, assimilate, adjudge and co-ordinate the geographical information provided by explorers and sailors who frequented the margins of the known. They also had to be able to imagine themselves suspended in the air, to achieve the visionary perspective of gods, gazing down on to the world from the amplitudes of heaven.Mercators name is most familiar to us because of the Mercator Projection: the solution he devised to represent the spheroidal surface of the globe on a two-dimensional plane. It is less well known that Mercator was the first man to conceive of mapping the entire surface of the planet or that he pioneered the idea of presenting multiple maps in bound books, to which he gave the name Atlas.

via Observer review: Mercator by Nicholas Crane | Books | The Observer.

Like the castle in Kafka’s novel, which burdens the village with the obscurity of its decrees and the multiplicity of its offices, the accumulated culture has lost its living meaning and hangs over man like a threat in which he can in no way recognize himself

The interruption of tradition, which is for us now a fait accompli, opens an era in which no link is possible between old and new, if not the infinite accumulation of the old in a sort of monstrous archive or the alientation effected by the very means that is supposed to help with the transmissin of the old. Like the castle in Kafka’s novel, which burdens the village with the obscurity of its decrees and the multiplicity of its offices, the accumulated culture has lost its living meaning and hangs over man like a threat in which he can in no way recognize himself. Suspended in the void between old and new, past and future, man is projected into time as into somethin alien that incessantly elludes him and still drags him forward, but without allowing him to find his ground in it.

      Giorgio Agamben, The Man Wiithout Content, translated by Georgia Albert

via ::: wood s lot ::: "the fitful tracing of a portal".

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