Cover Image: The History of the London Underground Map

The History of the London Underground Map

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Member Reviews

This book was more than the history of the London Underground Map as you had to understand the history of the London Underground itself to fully understand the Map's history. 
The book was slow to get into and was a bit dry in places. Although there are some pictures and maps I would have benefited from more pictures of the different maps mentioned to fully appreciate the changes made through out time.
I learnt a lot from this book and it was incredibly well researched.
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I do love London themed books and books about trains, so what better than book to read than one about the London Underground!  I know the London Underground well having spent many a happy time travelling the Tube on days out as a child and then later in my adult years!  This book is based specifically on the map, but it does carry so much other information about the different lines, stations and events which have happened in the Capital and on the Tube over the years.  Starting right back at the beginning when the Underground was only just being formed, this book is a plethora of facts, figures and interesting information not just about the Underground in general but also about the people who worked on it.

There are some parts of the book where the given information is a little in-depth, especially for the less engineer and mechanically minded like myself.  It also did take a few chapters to get to the idea of the map, but in its defence, there would be no map without knowing how the Underground was started!  For me, personally, I loved it when it got to the wartime years and beyond!  I’ve heard many stories of the underground stations being used as shelters, hiding places and even war rooms, but I never tire of hearing about it to be honest!  I also loved coming more into present day, and hearing of some of the events that I could remember – Moorgate, Kings Cross and of course, 7/7.

Whilst some bits did go over my head a little, the rest of it was great!  I loved all these little things which you just didn’t know (and probably should of!) – I’ve never realised the Thames is shown on the map and had to go and check for myself, as just one example!  As this was a review copy, I read this on my kindle and there was only a handful of pictures at the very end. I’m not sure how it works in proper book format and would hope there are lots of lovely pictures to accompany all this wonderful information! I may have to purchase my own hard copy just to find out!  If you’re a London Underground fanatic, or just love London in general then I would recommend getting this book!
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A well researched history of the London Underground and its iconic map. It was a pleasant read even if a bit dry at moment.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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(4/5) This book was interesting, if a bit dry. I thought it was very well researched, and appreciated the use of primary and secondary sources from that time period and the liberal use of quotations from newspapers and other sources. I was hoping for more about the actual map/diagram (and there was an interesting discussion on this), but I thought the initial history of the Underground, while necessary, was the driest part of the book for me. Would recommend to the history buff/anglophile in your life!
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Caroline Roope’s book, The History of the London Underground Map, is predominantly a history of the London Underground: its formation from a bunch of independent small companies into the Underground Electric Railways of London, which was then subsumed within the London Passenger Transport Board. That combination needed a common identity; a common branding – and so the author tells us about the introduction of roundels, the UndergrounD lettering; the Johnston Sans typeface; and the design of stations. 

I enjoyed this book. There are many short chapters, so it was perfect for reading this week when I had limited time each day. Initially, I was puzzled as to why the story of Harry Beck’s famous Tube map didn’t start until Page 89, but then I realised that the preceding narrative was needed to set the context. (And a book that was just about the map would be a lot slimmer!)

I learned a lot from this book. I was really saddened to read that London Underground only paid Harry Beck ten guineas (£10.50) for his 1933 design and artwork and then, in 1960, after Beck had been updating the map for 27 years, the Underground’s publicity manager replaced it with his own version. Beck only found out this had happened when he saw the new map at his local station. I can barely imagine how upset he would have been, especially as the new version was universally condemned.

Although I felt cheated because the book isn’t just about the map, I think it’s a far better book. Roope’s narrative about the Underground’s development is pacy and well done. It could have been very dry but isn’t. The quote from the Belfast Telegraph, on the day that UK buses and trains were nationalised in 1948, about a bus conductor greeting his passengers with “Hurry along, shareholders” did make me laugh.

This is a book that I shall keep and refer to many times. I really do recommend it for anyone with an interest in transport history – and not just London: Roope has some shrewd comments about the nationwide Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

#TheHistoryoftheLondonUndergroundMap #NetGalley
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I am grateful to NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Although entitled “The History of the London Underground Map”, this is the story of so much more than the iconic Tube Map, which originated almost one hundred years ago. The Map, or more correctly, Beck’s Diagram of London Underground stations and lines naturally plays a prominent role in this book. Sometime foremost, other times retreating to the background as other characters enter, play their roles and depart. The Map, which first makes an appearance midway through the book, constantly evolves, in one form or another until present times.  This is the story of what became a complex and ever expanding system we now know as London Transport.  The author, Caroline Roper,  has done an outstanding job of bringing this story to life. The people, culture, politics, economics, changes to society and global events. In many ways this book is the story of London and the surrounding areas since the middle of the 19th century.
This book was a real pleasure to read, greatly exceeding my expectations and will be warmly recommended to family and friends, in fact, to anyone who has travelled in London or would like to one day. This book will make a journey in London, be it for business or pleasure, a much richer and satisfying experience. 

The book begins with a heartfelt introduction to the London Underground and the magic it provides; a passenger may travel and emerge somewhere new and not quite know exactly  how far, or where, indeed by what means they have travelled. The Map of course is the ever-present aid; a trusty companion to London travel, representing 150 years of design, engineering, expansion and so much more. 

The early chapters provide a scene of London during the mid-18th century. A growing city, lacking efficient public transport. We are introduced to the businessmen and engineers who had the skill and tenacity to envision a better life for the people of London.  The author takes us on a journey with these people plus the  technology, politics, and economics as competing transport companies plan, build and run some of the first underground railway systems in the world. Key participants, often prominent businessmen of the day, are portrayed with honesty, even if some of the wheeling and dealing is not always on the right side of the law !The author presents people and their activities with warmth, respect and occasionally humour. 

This is not a massive book, with some 200 pages of text , however the author manages to convey much of the history surrounding London’s Underground system.  The people responsible for the underground are fascinating, but we also learn of geography, technology, politics, London’s population and economy. World events often play a role in London’s Underground, such as global depressions, wars, population growth, demographics, work & leisure and indeed the makeup of the workforce itself. It seems that London Underground frequently plays a role is enabling or at least helping London to survive and grow come what may. 

One major theme is the disjointed nature of the various lines as they were planned, grew and were extended. The author conveys the competition and animosity between the various train operators during the early years of building and running various Underground companies. Unsurprisingly travel, fares and connections between the lines was complex. Hence the need to provide the commuter with assistance. Publicity in the form of maps, posters and station information helped with navigating the complexities.  The government of the day encouraged mergers and thus integration, resulting in a somewhat coherent system. As the 19th Century closes, various maps had been generated to assist passengers. Still, the iconic map we know today was still decades away.

The author takes us on a fascinating journey of not only train line expansion, but many other related issues and outcomes. Ticketing, timetables, steam versus electric engines, urbanisation, commuter suburbs, branding, advertising, art, culture and leisure pursuits to name a few. The importance of Art was particularly important to key Underground managers over the years. Not only Underground branding, but station design, posters, publicity and other artistic or cultural issues are covered throughout the book.

By the 1930s we have Beck’s Map of the Underground as a constant companion to travellers, which continues in updated form until the present day. As new lines are developed and governments of the day influence and participate in managing the Underground system, the Map constantly changes, with Underground employee Beck remaining significantly invested in his creation until his retirement in the 1970s. 

The final chapters continue the story of the Underground,  including the Map, until the present day. We learn of the Underground’s economic decline as car ownership increases as well as the demise of railways outside of London, new tube lines, commercialisation of tube-related designs, fatal accidents and incidents. Always in the background is Beck’s Map, constantly evolving as new lines and stations are added to the network. The simplicity and elegance of the original map remains, although it is severely tested by the abundance of information it is trying to convey. Indeed, alternative unofficial maps sometimes provide a better, clearer, more coherent view of the Underground system than the official London Transport map.

The book concludes with the opening of the latest expansion, the Elizabeth Line, which of course necessitated a new Map, a new version of Beck’s enduring, iconic, much loved Diagram.

As well as Notes, Bibliography and Index , the author also includes many figures such as historical prints, photographs, artwork, promotional & advertising material and of course maps.

A fascinating book, likely to be of interest to anyone travelling on the London Underground. The history and information in this book will enrich passengers journeys and cause some reflection or admiration for how it came to be. And where it may go in the future. I wish the author and publishers all the very best with  this wonderful, engaging and informative book.
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Really informative. I cannot wait for my next trip into London. Thank you to the published for an advanced copy of this book.
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I applied for this book on a whim, as I went through a major Anglophilia phase circa 2012. I was intrigued by the concept of social history via the history of the iconic imagery of the London Underground map. While this book had some interesting morsels, I found it to be rather dry. It is certainly well researched, if exhaustively so. I recognize that the development of the Tube would've needed to include a history of the London transit more broadly. I found the focus on the railway and development of the metro tedious. I should've known that the development of social institutions / infrastructure was not for me.
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Don't be fooled by the title, it's more of a history of the London Underground than just the map.  In fact the maps weren't produced for the whole system until some of the larger independent ones were consolidated after WWI.  

One of the most important occurrences was the development of the 'UndergrounD' signage and the creation of the famous underground logo, with the word underground in white on a blue rectangle surrounded by a red circle.  This signified the united of all the pieces that made up the 'Tubes" so that stations were easier to find.

The second big occurrence was the first map that was designed without any background showing significant buildings and parks.  All of the tube lines were represented by a color code and the map was centered on the Circle Line.  This made it easier to figure out which train took you where and where you had to change trains.  Except for some tweeking over the years this map has remained the mainstay of the system.
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I first took an interest in history of the London Underground map and typeface as a design student and have a small amount of knowledge about the topic already, so I was thrilled that this book covered so much I didn't know. It is a pretty dense read. I actually loved this and came away having learned a lot. It is clearly extremely well researched and the author's passion for the topic is evident throughout. The result is a wonderfully insightful and comprehensive guide to the history of the London Underground network.

I was expecting the book's focus to be solely on the history of the map; however, this book actually looks at the entire history of the network, spanning its inception, construction. I think it's a richer read for exploring the wider history to understand and explain decisions.

Fascinating subject, I'll definitely be recommending this one. Thank you to Netgalley and Pen & Sword for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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When I first visited London as a tourist, I fell in love with the city and it’s transportation system.  Having lived in mid sized Canadian cities and having visited Toronto throughout my life, I was confounded by the choices.  I soon discovered the magic carpet that the London Underground Map provided.  I could plot out ways to get from point A to point B easily.  And if it required a change of line, that too could be planned by using this wondrous thing.

It was not until I returned and lived there for three years that I learned the map and the topography of an area often had little in common.  I learned that often, rather than backtracking on a different line, I could climb out of the pit and walk a short distance to something that was so much closer than it appeared.  While that knowledge made my journeys simpler, it never eliminated the awe I had for that little map that opened up an exciting world for me.  Over the years, when friends would go to London for the first time, I would do them up an itinerary based on what they wanted most to see and where they could piggyback one thing with another.

I had no idea of the work that went into creating the cartographical miracle.  I always love stories about the history of the tube, especially during WWII.   When one plummeted to the depths either in the lift at Russell Square or the escalators atKing’s Cross, the tube has been an adventure.   What I did not know was  the painful evolution into Beck’s icon that made navigation a breeze.  Jigging around with it  was not often an improvement.  It’s simplicity and ease of use could never be exceeded.   In fact, some attempts complicated things for the commuter.

In my most recent visits, I have travelled more by bus than tube, partly because of difficulty climbing stairs and mostly because I enjoy the views while going from place to place.  But if I was going to travel a distance across London, I would still head to the tube.  Whether I would be able to make sense of the changes to the map is another question.  New lines and the Cross-Link create so much additional information that I suspect it is more difficult.  All the more reason to admire the work of Beck and to long for the simpler days.  Five purrs and two paws up.
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A comprehensive history of the London Underground and its map. A lot of research went into this book. I found the origins of the Underground, the building of it, interesting but there's not much excitement in the origins. Still, Caroline Roope does a good job of laying out how it came about and who was involved in both the actual system and the map.
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According to Caroline Roope the Tube Map fundamentally lacks key mapping elements such as topography and urban detail, but what it does is to encourage a mental map of London, one that exists inside the passenger's head allowing them to traverse the city, much like London's cabbies achieve when studying The Knowledge.

The beauty of its design is, as Caroline Roope says: It is as much at home hanging on the wall of a modern art gallery as it is stuffed in the pocket of a London commuter. The flexibility of the Tube Map, and its capacity to grow and adapt along with the city it represents, has inspired numerous interpretations of what it means to traverse the metropolis.

The History of the London Underground Map takes you through a very accessible  history of the London Underground, in addition to the development of its iconic map. This book is an essential addition to anyone interested in the development of London's Underground system and its famous map.
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Very good interesting book well written 
London underground has so much history and author has combined this in to a wonderful Factual book that would be ideal for all enthusias or just someone wants know more
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This book was more a look at the history of the underground and the maps part included in it but overall was the history of the network from the start until the introduction of the Elizabeth Line (cross-rail) . liked the latter part which discusses the different types of diagrams/maps used after the Beck edition.
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This was fun and am interesting over view of the history of the underground. Since it was an arc, there were pictures and maps to help,which would have been a very useful addition. On the whole anyone interested in London or public transit would like this
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I received an ARC of, The History of the London Underground Map, by Caroline Roope.  This was a good book, but a little dry, very informative.
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