Humans have been living in cities for a really long time, but like so many things about the past, getting around cities used to be needlessly difficult. This is because there weren’t reliable signs, or even street addresses.
An address is something many people take for granted today, but they are in fact a fairly recent invention that has shaped our cities and taken on great political importance.
Deirdre Mask is the author of The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power, which looks at all the ways the world has changed since the popularization of street addresses during the Enlightenment. The book examines how addresses impact wealth and poverty, and how they serve as proxies for our most contentious debates. Mask also explores a digital future where we aren’t reliant on the numbers on our homes to tell us where we are or where we’re going.