Conference paper Open Access

Georeferencing historical telephone directories to understand innovation diffusion and social change

Tanu, Nikki; Gibin, Maurizio; Longley, Paul

This paper explores how historical archives of British telephone directories, recently made available, can be used to revisit historical and geographical questions using a modern, quantitative approach. By geolocating telephone subscribers throughout history, we seek to retrace spatial and temporal changes in demography and the spread of the fixed line telephone network in Britain. We develop a prototypical pipeline for capturing and processing these data using archives from 1881 and demonstrate that, if extended and applied to directories from the subsequent 100 years, this research can provide new insights into wide-ranging aspects of British social and economic history.

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