Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-z5z76 Total loading time: 0.297 Render date: 2023-01-30T19:10:10.814Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Trading Places

A Historical Geography of Retailing in London, Canada

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 January 2016


The economies of modern cities are dependent on an advanced retail system; so too are the people who inhabit them. The origin and evolution of retailing in London, Canada, was studied using a historical geographic information system (GIS) to document the relationship between a city and its retail sector. Visualization and spatial-statistical techniques afforded by the historical GIS were implemented to study change over time. The locations of retailers and the types of the goods they sold were examined for four periods in the city’s early history: 1844, 1863, 1881, and 1916. The distances traveled to shop were also calculated for a variety of goods. The results indicate that the retail system was ingrained in the development of the city, showing marked locational patterns and a high degree of rationality in the shopkeepers' business strategies. Mapping the retail landscape in each era using historical GIS allowed for the examination of the relationship between retail and residential development in the growing city. While the downtown area remained the primary retail district for the city, considerable retail expansion also occurred at the urban periphery during this early stage of the city's development.

Copyright © Social Science History Association 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Alonso, W. (1964) Location and Land Use. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Armstrong, F. H. (1986) The Forest City: An Illustrated History. Northridge, CA: Windsor.Google Scholar
Berry, B. J. L. Tennant, R. J. Garner, B. J. Simmons, J. (1963) Commercial Structure and Commercial Blight. Chicago: Department of Geography, University of Chicago.Google Scholar
Bowden, M. J. (1971) “Downtown through time: Delimitation, expansion, and internal growth.” Economic Geography 47 (2): 12135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Christaller, W. Baskin, C. W. (1966) Central Places in Southern Germany. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
Cohen, L. (1996) “From town center to shopping center: The reconfiguration of community marketplaces in postwar America.” American Historical Review 101 (4): 105081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Conzen, M. Conzen, K. N. (1979) “Geographical structure in nineteenth-century urban retailing: Milwaukee, 1836–90.” Journal of Historical Geography 5 (1): 4566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cox, N. C. (2000) The Complete Tradesman: A Study of Retailing, 1550–1820. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
Crang, P. Malbon, B. (1996) “Consuming geographies: A review essay.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 21 (4): 70411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crewe, L. (2000) “Geographies of retailing and consumption.” Progress in Human Geography 24 (3): 27590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeBats, D. A. (2008) “A tale of two cities: Using tax records to develop GIS files for mapping and understanding nineteenth-century U.S. cities.” Historical Methods 41 (1): 1738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gillette, H. Jr. (1985) “The evolution of the planned shopping center in suburb and city.” Journal of the American Planning Association 51 (4): 44960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilliland, J. A. Novak, M. (2006) “On positioning the past with the present: The use of fire insurance plans and GIS for urban environmental history.” Environmental History 11 (1): 13639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glennie, P. (1995) “Consumption within historical studies,” in Miller, D. (ed.) Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies. London: Routledge: 164203.Google Scholar
Gouglas, S. (1996) “Produce and promotion: Covent Garden Market, the socioeconomic elite, and the downtown core in London, Ontario, 1843–1915.” Urban History Review/Revue d’histoire urbaine 25 (1): 17.Google Scholar
Gregory, I. Ell, P. (2007) Historical GIS: Technologies, Methodologies, and Scholarship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hardwick, M. J. (2003) Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
History of the County of Middlesex, Canada (1889) Toronto: Goodspeed.Google ScholarPubMed
Jefferys, J. B. (1954) Retail Trading in Britain, 1850–1950: A Study of Trends in Retailing with Special Reference to the Development of Cooperative, Multiple Shop, and Department Store Methods of Trading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Jones, K. Simmons, J. (1987) Location, Location, Location: Analyzing the Retail Environment. Toronto: Methuen.Google Scholar
Larsen, K. Gilliland, J. (2008) “Mapping the evolution of ‘food deserts’ in a Canadian city: Supermarket accessibility in London, Ontario, 1961–2005.” International Journal of Health Geographics 7 (1), doi:10.1186/1476-072X-7-16 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leach, W. (1993) Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
Losch, A. (1967) The Economics of Location. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Lutman, J. H. Hives, C. (1982) The North and the East of London: An Historical and Architectural Guide. London, ON: City of London.Google Scholar
Miller, D. (1995) Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Miller, O. (1992) London 200: An Illustrated History. London, ON: London Chamber of Commerce.Google Scholar
Mombourquette, J. (1992) “London postponed: John Graves Simcoe and his capital in the wilderness,” in St.-Denis, G. (ed.) Simcoe’s Choice. Toronto: Dundurn: 130.Google Scholar
Mui, H.-C. Mui, L. H. (1989) Shops and Shopkeeping in Eighteenth Century Eng land. Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
Phillips, M. (1992) “The evolution of markets and shops in Britain,” in Benson, J. Shaw, G. (eds.) The Evolution of Retail Systems, c. 1800–1914. Leicester: Leicester University Press: 5376.Google Scholar
Scott, P. (1970) Geography and Retailing. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
Shaw, G. Wild, M. T. (1979) “Retail patterns in the Victorian city.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 4 (2): 27891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Staeheli, L. A. Mitchell, D. (2006) “USA’s destiny? Regulating space and creating community in American shopping malls.” Urban Studies 43 (5): 97792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stott, G. (2007) “Enhancing status through incorporation: Suburban municipalities in nineteenth-century Ontario.” Journal of Urban History 33 (6): 885910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thrift, N. (2000) “The geography of retailing,” in Johnston, R. J. Gregory, D. Pratt, G. Watts, M. (eds.) The Dictionary of Human Geography, 4th ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell: 71315.Google Scholar
Vance, J. E. Jr. (1970) “Emerging patterns of commercial structure in American cities,” in Putnam, R. G. Taylor, F. J. Kettle, P. G. (eds.) Geography of Urban Places: Selected Readings. Toronto: Methuen: 21539.Google Scholar
Wrigley, N. Lowe, M. (2002) Reading Retail: A Geographical Perspective on Retailing and Consumption Spaces. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Trading Places
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Trading Places
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Trading Places
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *