The period which began with the industrial revolution caused varied social problems as from the second half of eighteenth century. Seeking for solutions to address the poverty and social imbalance, urban policy in 19th century tried to make balance between economy and social policies. Since that period, decisions on city development have been based on statistical data. Innovation and research became a permanent feature implementing new tools and instruments for the analysis, using the different available sources as scientific reports and investigations, maps, statistical figures and even photograph (i.e. aerophotogrammetry as predecessor of satellite maps used nowadays).
In the nineteenth century we saw the establishment of national collections of books, newspapers and other archived materials. If you go to any European capital and visit a national library or a national archive, there is a high likelihood that the building is from the nineteenth century. However, up until the middle of the 19th century, there were virtually no public libraries in the sense in which we now understand the term, i.e. libraries provided from public funds and freely accessible to all. Meanwhile, subscription libraries, both private and commercial, provided the middle to upper classes with a variety of books for moderate fees. However only a small elite of the world population had the ability to read and write – the best estimate is that 12% of the world population was literate but over the course of the 19th century global literacy more than doubled.
Maps begun being available for a public usage in forms of subproducts as pocket series, touring plans and foldable maps. But also in the 19th century thematic cartography took its place that opened up the way to generalization, as opposed to topographic cartography, which described the particularity of places and their uniqueness. Thematic cartography led to implementing even a new map form – cadastre which is in between topography and analytical maps. Their popularity could be explained by enormous land surveys taken starting from the end of 18th century.
In particular, the enthusiasm for statistics put on the foreground several topics drawn from what we would call today “social sciences”: demography, political economics, and moral statistics due to the improvement of data base. First of all, national population census.
The first census of England, Scotland and Wales was carried out in 1801 and every ten years thereafter. The forms completed by each household, known as schedules, collected in enumeration books nowadays kept at the National Archives at Kew and is not generally available to the public. But surprises aside, the first census results were published in December 1801 and starting from this date the census has been published as Parliamentary Papers every 10 years up until 1911.
As another example could be taken is the Russian Empire who published the results of the first national census of 1882 in 119 volumes in the period from 1899 to 1905. Or firsts federal population census in the US that was taken starting from 1790, the schedules with results had to be presented in at least two public spaces before its publishing to get a citizen’s feedback or to correct data if it was inaccurate. And the final result in forms of books also was printed and distributed.
The high concentration of populations in the cities and the rapid development of cities led to the birth of mass politics and public opinion: as urban dwellers lived close by and could easily be mobilized into a formidable force to paralyze the factory and intimidate the government.
The more literate urban masses of 19th century Europe, politicized by the French Revolution in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, demanded their problems be addressed by a more democratic, representative government that heeded their voices, or by a nationalist government that expelled the foreigner rulers.
Architectural competitions, and even competitions with an urban planning element, were by no means an innovation of the middle of the 19th century.
In 1763 Empress Catherine II of Russia had held an international competition for a building plan of St Petersburg. This was the first time that competition had been used to produce more than an isolated architectural project. However it wasn’t emulated for some time and the tradition of urban planning competition was not firmly established until 1847 when the city of Brussel held a competition for the development of Rue Royal.
The importance of these competitions lay not only in the stimulus they gave to town planning, but in their contribution to the growth of public involvement in urban policy making.
So the act of foundation of statistical cartography was clearly associated with a certain vision of progress that prevailed, or was in process to prevail in 19th century, new phenomenon of structuring any domain of knowledge involved citizens and scientist in building a new democracy society that we live today.