By Philip Carter
This month is the 75th anniversary of the London version of the popular board game, Monopoly. To mark the anniversary, editors at the Oxford DNB wondered what a historical version of the game might look like. The Oxford DNB includes the stories of more than 57,000 men and women from British history, of whom nearly half had ties to the capital city.
So who would you have met if you’d made your way around a Monopoly board in the 1400 years since Mellitus (d.624), our first definite capital dweller and, incidentally, the first ever bishop of London? Throw a 3 and you’re rubbing shoulders with pugilist Daniel Mendoza on the Whitechapel Road, while a 10 has you ‘just visiting’ a London jail, alongside Elizabeth Fry. (Perhaps you’re there to see Dr Crippen, who spent his last days in Pentonville prison before his execution 100 years this month.) Another 3 gets you to the more salubrious Whitehall (the ODNB has articles on over 1700 civil servants); an 11 sees you on the Strand, developed for real by the 17th-century property tycoon Nicholas Barbon after the Great Fire. Shake a 7 and it’s the Water Works (how about Hugh Myddelton?) Follow this with a 6 and you can browse in Bond Street, perhaps stopping at no. 123, where the Italian confectioner William Jarrin set up shop in 1822. Posh Park Lane (126 residents) and swanky Mayfair (232) beckon, not to mention £200 on passing ‘Go’. But, oh no! a 4 and it’s ‘Super Tax, Pay £100’: welcome to the ODNB’s 54 accountants.
If you’d like to play on, you can. Online you can search the Oxford DNB by city, town, and street, as well as profession.
Dr Philip Carter is Publication Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. In the UK the ODNB is available free via nearly all public libraries and you can log-in at home by adding your library card number here. The ODNB is also available in libraries worldwide—leaving you a little bit more for that hotel on the Old Kent Road.