A historical GIS for England and Wales : a framework for reconstructing past geographies and analysing long-term change
This thesis describes the creation and possible uses of a Geographical Information System that contains the changing boundaries of the major administrative units of England and Wales from 1840 to 1974. For over 150 years the census, the General Register Office, and others have used these units to publish a wealth of data concerning the population of the country. The key issue addressed by the thesis is that changes in the administrative geography have hampered much research on long-term change in society that could have been done using these sources. The goal of the thesis is the creation of framework to allow the analysis of long-term socio-economic change that makes maximum use of the available data. This involves not only making use of the data's attribute (statistical) component, but also their spatial and temporal components. In order to do this, the thesis provides solutions to two key problems: the first is how to build a GIS containing administrative units that incorporates an accurate record of their changing boundaries and can be linked to statistical data in a flexible manner. The second is how to remove the impact of boundary changes when comparing datasets published at different dates. This is done by devising a methodology for interpolating data from the administrative units they were published using, onto a single target geography. An evaluation of the accuracy of this interpolation is performed and examples are given of how this type of research could be conducted. Taken together, these will release information locked up within historical socio-economic statistics by allowing space to be explicitly incorporated into any explorations of the data. This, in turn, allows research to explore the past with increased levels of both spatial and attribute data for longer time periods.