Watch James Shinn’s Talk
James Shinn ’11 is a History major from Winter Haven, FL. He is involved with RWIT, Dartmouth College Bowl, and Chimaera: The Dartmouth Interdisciplinary Journal.
He says, “My research began with a simple question: How did people find their way around a city (in this case, early modern London) before the institution in the 1760s of street names, house numbers, and other official positional aids? How did Londoners organize and navigate unregulated city space? Through my research I have developed two arguments about Londoners’ negotiations of the urban environment. First, I argue that they navigated the city using personal spatial logics based on a working knowledge of religious, political, and popular landmarks—most notably, pub and inn signs. Second, I argue that this traditional system of city way-finding was replaced by our modern, regulated system in the mid-eighteenth century because of the needs of a growing immigrant population. Local, memory-based spatial practices organized around monuments and signs were replaced by an official system of street names and house numbers predicated on legibility and accessibility. This sea-change in spatial custom constitutes an important and hitherto under-studied development in the advent of the modern city.”