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A Sign of the Times: Scandinavian Town Directories as Sources for Urban Historical Geography

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The position of town and trade directories as sources for the reconstruction of former urban geographies of Scandinavia is discussed. Scandinavian directories have a long history which, in the case of major urban centres, can be traced back to the eighteenth century. They contain valuable information with respect to the social, economic, political and demographic organization of modern Scandinavian urban environments through extensive listings of names and addresses. Despite the wealth of information contained therein, directories remain an underused and unresearched data source due mainly to their perceived incompatibility with the themes pursued by research in urban historical geography and the diversity of alternative high quality sources available. Admittedly, the use of directories is not without problems and an assessment of the accuracy, availability and reliability of directory information is presented in this paper. Nevertheless, to dismiss directories represents a serious oversight: the continued history, rapid rate of update and spatial ubiquity of publication across the region after the onset of industrialization make directories a powerful source for comparative urban historical geography research in Scandinavia. Moreover, directories are highly versatile data sources and represent powerful artefacts of modernity insofar as they function as mirrors of cultural change and consumption.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Geography and Development Studies, Bath Spa University College, Newton Park, Bath BA2 9BN, UK, 2: Department of Geography, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, Devon EX4 4RJ, UK

Publication date: 1997-08-01

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