School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Mapping Edinburgh's Social History

MESH – Mapping Edinburgh’s Social History – is a path-breaking AHRC funded project that uses data based on addresses and areas to represent historical information. It provides a spatial dimension that enriches and enhances an understanding of the past.

A team of historians and geographers have pooled their datasets on mortality, taxes, memberships, businesses, property ownership, overcrowding, poverty levels and a range of other indicators from the fifteenth century to the present, and are combining this data with maps from the same period to create an atlas of historical social data.

Map of Edinburgh showing locations of physicians' and dentists' practices in 1909-1910
Locations of physicians' and dentists' practices in 1909-1910

The project will produce a printed version of the atlas, but also an online atlas and mapping tools which will be freely available. The online atlas will allow users – academic historians, local government and civil service employees, and members of the public – to explore the historical and current situations in their area. Users will be able to compare different maps to observe changes over time; discover the location of Edinburgh’s markets in 1477, 1650, 1785 or 1825; map where pubs could be found at various dates; or calculate which council ward has the least green space. MESH is developing tools which to allow users to pursue their own interests, for example using information extracted from the Post Office Directories to plot where family members lived.

The MESH project avoids the licensing constraints of Google and other proprietary mapping by using OpenStreetMap, which allows anyone to use the maps as long as OSM contributors are acknowledged. All addresses, features, businesses, boundaries, and gardens plots have been mapped by actual surveys, using historical maps provided by the National Library of Scotland, and telemetry. This gives accuracy to approximately 1 metre.

Project Staff

Project Website

Mapping Edinburgh's Social History