I have already stated that apparel shops bore me, and the opposite happens with bookshops. Libraries have something in common with the later. Being able to access digital versions of a large array of historical documents through the internet is a wonderful way to better know the past. This will not help to better predict the future, that as usual will be made of a (wise?) mix of chance and logic, but can allow to better understand the inertia that makes some things more prone to stay in that future.
The past of Spain, this country from which I write, includes a long imperial period which, as well as all the evil an empire can cause, also has left other things. Among them, one of the most valuable is a cultural heritage that integrates a vision of the world in its whole dimension, including a cartographic legacy that is invaluable to know the history of half the globe, but also Spain’s own. And that legacy can be in a large measure consulted through the Digital Hispanic Library of the Spanish National Library. There you will find wonderful maps and view of most parts of what once was the Spanish Empire, and in many areas is still the Spanish speaking world.
These maps show the strength of the natural environment in shaping cities, even when Cadiz is no longer the reference for meridians…
Panamá City and its walls. Tomás López, 1789
Central cities still have most of the morphologic features coming from the laws that regulated what was one of the most ambitious city-making projects in history (albeit one that gave a large degree of autonomy to each settlement)
Historic Panamá City today
Manila and the surrounding plains in 1819, by Francisco Javier Herrera
The areas around the historic settlements have, however, witnessed growth as in any other major XXth century city.