British Architects on the Grand Tour in Eighteenth-Century Italy

Giovanna Ceserani

This research originated within “Mapping the Republic of Letters,” a collaborative effort that set out in 2008 to explore how visualizations could enrich the understanding of the human connections that constituted the early-modern cultural landscape. Our particular concern was with the role of travel in the Republic of Letters: what new possibilities for the study of travel could data visualizations offer? To answer this question, we set our attention on the eighteenth-century Grand Tour of Italy, with the aim of transforming John Ingamells’ Dictionary of British and Irish Travelers to Italy 1701-1800 (Yale UP, 1997), a compendium of more than five thousand entries, into a digital research resource.

The case study presented here, drawn from the thousands of entries in Ingamells’ Dictionary, focuses on sixty-nine British architects who went to Italy in the eighteenth century. The dataset for these architects comprises 620 visits to 120 Italian destinations, and it includes details about their education, their sources of funding, and their professional, social, and academic affiliations. The refinement of this data took place in tandem with the experiments that led to “Palladio,” an open-access set of data visualization tools developed within “Mapping the Republic of Letters.” As a result of our deep engagement with this richly various data, we were able to pose new questions about the role of travel in the development of British architecture; you can read about our findings in the article linked below. You can also look at the data yourself and interact with the visualizations we devised for it. And you can even download the data, in case you wish to conduct your own inquiry.

Our work on Ingamells’ Dictionary has since generated a further, ongoing project: Grand Tour Explorer, about which you can learn more at

Project Index

Note: Each item below should be cited separately. Follow the link to each page for citation information. The data are available for download from the Stanford Digital Repository. The data schema and interactive visualizations are viewable at this site.



Data schema

Interactive visualizations

Mapping the Republic of Letters Project

Mapping the Republic of Letters has been an exciting collaboration for us, as well as an ongoing experiment in how to conduct collaborative, interactive historical research in a digital age. To learn more about that project, visit