Human Geography of the UK by Danny Dorling - Companion Website

Maps used in the book

You are used to a particular map of the United Kingdom. This is the map you grew up with, the one used in most textbooks and which appears on television every evening in the weather reports, the map which shows the country as it appears from space. However, looking at the United Kingdom from space is not the best way to see its human geography. More people live in London than Scotland for instance. The alternative map of the UK, shown in Figure 1.1, presents a picture which tries to give the people of the UK fairer representation and which allows us to see variations within large cities alongside variations between regions and between more rural areas simultaneously. The map is of the 85 constituencies drawn up in 1999 for the European Parliamentary elections of that year. Northern Ireland was defined as one large constituency that would return 3 members of the parliament. At the last minute the UK government chose a different voting system for that election and so these areas were not used in that election. We use them here as they present a way of grouping the population of the UK into large adjacent areas each containing roughly the same number of people. Each is given equal prominence on the map (although some are a little taller than others).

While you may not be used to the map shown in Figure 1.1 the names of the areas on that map listed in the file 'Extra3_appendix.xls' should hopefully be a little more familiar. These are the labels for the 85 constituencies used in this book. Most are named after old counties or parts of counties. They were designed to each contain roughly half a million electors (people aged 18 or over) and to combine together those electors who had most in common geographically (although see the exercise at the end of Chapter 5 to ascertain the veracity of such a claim. Once you have identified your constituency you can see where, on this new map of the UK, you have lived.

Figure 1.1 shows not only each area of the country draw roughly in proportion to the size of its population, but also gives each area a height. The disadvantage of showing a topography (surface) is that some areas can be slightly obscured behind others which then appear more prominent. An angle of view also has to be chosen and that too influences what is seen. The advantage of showing a topography is that it is always possible to view what is being mapped in relation to another variable depicted by the height of each area. In physical geography it is height itself which is usually depicted, rivers run down mountains, temperature tends to fall as the land rises and so on. In human geography there is no single obvious variable to use to map the basic contours of the social landscape. However many social variables produce very similar landscapes and so the precise choice is not critical. Here I have taken the first life chances measured in this book (in Figure 1.5) as this should be of interest to the anticipated reader. Height on all the maps drawn here is in proportion to a child’s chances of not winning a place to attend university. These chances have been turned into a categorical variable to simplify the landscape. The higher an area appears the fewer people growing up there go on to university.