Professor Roger Kain: The History of Maps and Mapping

Professor Roger Kain, dean and chief executive of the School of Advanced Study, is one of the world's leading experts on the history of maps and mapping. This page describes his areas of research in greater detail.

Tithe Maps

The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 generated three important groups of documents, now in The National Archives. These are the tithe maps (PRO IR 30), the apportionments that describe land ownership, occupation, and use (PRO IR 29), and the tithe files that give background information on the commutation process, including valuable agricultural statistics (PRO IR 18).

Professor Kain wrote his PhD thesis using tithe documents and has since been responsible for three important national studies of these materials. The first, written in collaboration with Hugh Prince, is The Tithe Surveys of England and Wales (Cambridge University Press, 1985; reprinted 2006), from which Tithe Maps for Historians (Chichester: Phillimore, 2000) is in part derived. These provide a general description of the maps, apportionments, and tithe files and demonstrate the uses to which they have been put. The second, An Atlas and Index of the Tithe Files of Mid-Nineteenth Century England and Wales (Cambridge University Press, 1986; reprinted 2010), maps much of the statistical information from the tithe files. The database associated with this Atlas has been published as a searchable CD-ROM: A Socio-Economic Analysis of Land Use: The 1836 National Tithe Files Database (Marlborough: Adam Matthew, 1995).

The third, written in collaboration with Richard Oliver, is The Tithe Maps of England and Wales: A Cartographic Analysis and County-by-County Catalogue (Cambridge University Press, 1995; reprinted 2011). This catalogues all 11,785 tithe maps of England and Wales, and lists for each the scale, maker (where known), and the topographic and other content. The book was awarded the Library Association’s McColvin medal as the outstanding work of reference published in 1995. This research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and The Leverhulme Trust.

Enclosure and Rating, Parochial Assessment, Sanitary And Drainage Maps

A study of the pre-Ordnance Survey cadastral-type maps of England and Wales, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, was undertaken by Roger Kain and Richard Oliver between 1993 and 2004. By far the largest component of this group are the 5000 or so enclosure maps dating from 1598 to 1927.

The results of this study were published as Roger J P Kain, John Chapman, and Richard R Oliver, The Enclosure Maps of England and Wales, 1595-1918: A Cartographic Analysis and Electronic Catalogue (Cambridge University Press, 2004; reprinted 2011).

This book offers the first comprehensive study of the enclosure mapping of England and Wales. Enclosure maps are fundamental sources of evidence in many types of historical enquiries. Although modern historians tend to view these large-scale maps essentially as sources of data on past economies and societies, this book argues that enclosure maps had a much more active role at the time they were compiled. Seen from the perspective of their contemporary society, enclosure maps are not simply antiquarian curiosities, cultural artefacts, or useful sources for historians but instruments of land reorganisation and control that both reflected and consolidated the power of those who commissioned them. The book is accompanied by a fully searchable descriptive and analytical catalogue of all the parliamentary and non-parliamentary enclosure maps extant in public archives and libraries, and offers an essential research tool for economic, social, and local historians, and for geographers, lawyers, and planners.

Historic Parishes of England and Wales - An Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850 with a Gazetteer and Metadata

An Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850 with a Gazetteer and Metadata by Roger J P Kain and Richard R. Oliver­ introduces a newly compiled digital map of the historic (mainly pre-1850) parishes, townships, and other local administrative areas of England and Wales that is set to become a standard reference resource. The book describes the data and the method of compilation, and includes an abbreviated version of the full gazetteer/metadata that serves as a hard copy index to the places located on the Electronic Map.

The Electronic Map covers the whole of England and Wales and is organised by Ordnance Survey Sheet number. The map consists of scanned bitmap images of the Ordnance Survey one inch to the mile (1:63,360) New Popular Edition maps (1945-48) with National Grid. It contains the boundaries of some 18,233 places and is arranged as three digital 'layers'. The first is a scan of the Ordnance Survey maps stored as grey tone sheet images. This enables Ordnance Survey physical, cultural, and place-name content to be readily visible in the background for orientation and general location purposes without obscuring the added boundary and reference number material. The second layer consists of the boundaries, stored as solid red lines; the third layer contains the reference numbers that link places on the map to the gazetteer/metadata dataset that accompanies the maps.

Ordnance Survey

From 1986 to 1992, Richard Oliver collaborated with Brian Harley on the introductions and cartobibliographies of the last three volumes of Harry Margary’s The Old Series Ordnance Survey. Previously he completed a DPhil thesis on the Ordnance Survey in Great Britain, 1835-70; subsequently he published Ordnance Survey Maps: A Concise Guide for Historians (London: Charles Close Society, 1993). For Sheetlines, the Charles Close Society's journal, he has written a number of articles on aspects of Ordnance Survey history.

Maps and History in South-West England 

Maps are a vital but complex source of evidence for historians. The six essays in this book consider the practical and political purposes for which maps were used, the symbolic and ideological roles of maps in the history of south-west England, and the ways in which map evidence can be used to recover facts about the past for use in the writing of history. A range of types are examined: early county maps, manorial and estate plans, maps produced in conjunction with enclosure awards and tithe surveys, and Ordnance Survey maps.

Cadastral Maps In the Service of the State: A History of Property Mapping

Beginning with a review of the roots of cadastral mapping in the Roman Empire, the authors concentrate on the use of cadastral maps in the Netherlands, France, England, the Nordic countries, the German lands, the territories of the Austrian Habsburgs, and the European colonies in the New World. During the seventeenth century, governments began to use maps to secure economic and political bases; by the nineteenth century, these maps had become tools for aggressive governmental control of land for taxation and resource management. This book was awarded the 1991 Kenneth Nebenzahl Prize for the best new manuscript in the history of cartography.

English Maps: A History

This book adopts the revisionist perspectives of the ‘new’ history of cartography and reviews a broad range of maps ranging in date from about 700 AD to the early twentieth century. Its principal objective is to explore the ways in which maps have interacted with society in England’s past and to analyse the roles that maps have played and the uses to which they have been put. Connections across the centuries are recognised; to avoid too insular a view, ongoing intellectual and cartographic developments in the rest of Europe are noted.

British Town Maps, 1470-1895: A Catalogue and Cartographical Analysis

This study is the latest part of a long-term research programme to record and analyse pre-Ordnance Survey, large-scale maps of the nation. This research on the urban cartography of Britain was adopted as a British Academy Research Project in March 1998; in 1999, the Arts and Humanities Research Council Board agreed to fund work on English town maps to June 2005 and later awarded further funding to extend the project to Wales and Scotland. 

Notwithstanding the number of extant town maps, their wide dispersal, and their usefulness to historians and others, researchers have few descriptive and analytical finding aids to help identify and locate maps of a particular place. This project aims to provide this much-needed research tool by locating, cataloguing, and describing all town maps. As well as cataloguing the maps, it will analyse the database to provide information for writing a narrative history of town mapping that will be the first book-length exploration of the enmeshing of town maps in the history of any country.