Revisiting the walking city: A geospatial examination of the journey to work

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Social Sciences


The daily commute to work and its related social histories have long been of interest to historical geographers and urban historians. This article revisits the existing scholarship on the nineteenth-century journey to work and outlines a new methodological framework that uses a historical GIS to overcome many of the challenges identified in previous studies. These challenges include a reliance on small, atypical samples of workers, approximations of the spatial relationship between home and work, and unrealistic interpretations of journeys travelled by using only Euclidean paths. Combining city directories and decennial censuses through the use of probabilistic record linkage techniques uncovers the relationship between work and home for over 5,000 workers in London, Ontario in 1881. A GIS network-derived journey to work model re-creates more realistic journey that considers the many natural and built environment barriers that influenced the paths and distances workers travelled on a daily basis. Empirical results of the journey to work along the lines of occupational class, coincident home–work location, and gender are presented and contextualized to studies in other cities. The results highlight that the experiences of commuting differ widely along the lines of social class and gender.

Publication Title

Historical Geography, GIScience and Textual Analysis