London Underground:
A Cultural Geography

London Underground: A Cultural Geography charts one of the strangest, as well as the most familiar, spaces in London. This book provides a theoretical account of the evolution of an archetypal modern environment. The first to complete that slow process of estrangement from the natural topography initiated by the Industrial Revolution, the London Underground is shown to be what French anthropologist Marc Auge has termed non-lieu – a non-place, like motorway, supermarket or airport lounge, compelled to interpret its relationship to the invisible landscape it traverses through the medium of signs and maps.

Fig. 1 Beck 1933 map

Surveying an unusually wide variety of material, ranging from the Victorian triple-decker novel, to Modernist art and architecture, to Pop music and graffiti, this cultural geography suggests that the tube-network is a transitional form, linking the alienated spaces of Victorian England to the virtual spaces of our contemporary consumer-capitalism.

Recounting the history of the production of this new space, and of the struggles it has generated, London Underground is nothing less than the story of how people have attempted to make a home in the psychopathological spaces of the modern world.


“A brilliant work of cultural history, full of original insights conveyed with clarity and gusto.”–Michael Saler, University of California, Davis

“A rich study of the underground transport system, placing the network in its historical and cultural context.”–TLS

“A fascinating and thought-provoking examination of how London and its Underground have interacted for 150 years. A specialist book, recommended for readers with imagination and interest in the wider picture.”–Underground News

“A brilliant work of cultural history, full of original insights conveyed with clarity and gusto.”–Professor Michael Saler, University of California, Davis

“A strength of Ashford’s study is his account of literary and artistic responses to the new experience of underground travel.”–times Higher Education

‘David Ashford’s London Underground is the first full-length study of the London Underground’s cultural history, and questions of authority and possibility recur throughout. … London Underground makes a convincing argument for deliberate and aesthetic interventions in the early Tube environment.’– The Cambridge Quarterly

“Ashford gives us a very enjoyable account of the cultural history of the London Underground and this book should inspire management historians to think about the cultural side of organizations more, while bringing cultural history close to an interest in the cultural side of economic life.”–The Journal of Urban History

Links to Online Reviews:

Times Literary Supplement — Royce Mahawatte, “In Tunnels”, TLS, Wednesday 5 March 2014

Cambridge Quarterly — Stephanie Boland, “Going Underground” Cambridge Quarterly (2014) 43(1): 72-79.

Literary London — Nicolas Tredell, Review, The Literary London Journal, Volume 11 Number 2 (Autumn 2014)

London Underground: A Cultural Geography was published by Liverpool University Press in 2013, and can be purchased here.