The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, established in London in 1826, published inexpensive but high-quality publications, including maps and atlases, with the purpose of supplying an increasingly literate population with quality information. Founded largely at the behest of the influential lawyer and Whig member of the House of Commons Lord Henry Bingham, the Society’s actions were part of a wider movement in early nineteenth-century Britain pushing to reform Britain’s social and political culture. This included, among other things, increasing social welfare and expanding the voting franchise to the working and non-landowning middle classes and to women. The SDUK’s purpose was, ostensibly, to protect the more ‘vulnerable’ classes from disreputable and seditious publications which could occur due to the cheaper methods of publication brought about by the industrial revolution. The town plans that were produced by the SDUK often included beautiful and intricate vignettes of the cityscape and, consistent with the Society’s educational purpose, are very accurate and detailed.