The Language of Urbanization in John Stow's: Survey of London

By Ramsey, Rachel | Philological Quarterly, Summer-Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Language of Urbanization in John Stow's: Survey of London


Ramsey, Rachel, Philological Quarterly


In the 1580s and 1590s London experienced high inflation, plague outbreaks, and prolonged dearth caused, in part, by the City's phenomenal population explosion in the late sixteenth-century. (1) The Crown and City responded to these conditions with a surge of anti-building legislation. Numerous Royal Proclamations, issued at the urging of the City's officials, blamed unregulated building for the increasingly disturbing changes in London's social topography. John Stow's Survey of London (1598), which provides a detailed account of London's wards and parishes during the reign of Elizabeth I, vividly illustrates the power of the Crown and City's anti-building rhetoric, describing the ecological devastation and social disintegration ushered in by unregulated building. However, Stow complicates the traditional paradigm governing the Elizabethan debates about building, in which building is discussed almost exclusively in terms of urban containment (or, less frequently, urban expansion), by attributing specific negative or positive consequences to particular types of building. By doing so, Stow demonstrates the emerging power of what I call "a discourse of building," which focuses on issues of style, material, and location and emphasizes the type of expansion. More importantly, the striking similarities between the nascent urban planning ideas expressed in the Survey of London and those promoted in seventeenth-century building regulations make a strong case for elevating the role texts such as Stow's played in generating alternative solutions to London's urban expansion problems during the period.

Elizabeth's 1580 Royal Proclamation against building assumed national scope with an Act of Parliament in 1588, effectively sanctioning a discourse of building founded on the idea that banning any new, subdivided, or multi-occupant buildings would curb London's skyrocketing population. (2) A series of Elizabethan anti-building proc lamations was based on the premise that the new and subdivided buildings and the landlords who rented to multiple tenants in already overcrowded houses fueled London's population expansion and thus contributed to higher food and fuel prices, the spread of plague and fire, and the inability of her majesty "to have her people ... well governed by ordinary justice." The remedy was "to command all manner of person, of what quality soever they be, to desist and forbear from any new buildings of any house or tenement within three miles from any of the gates of London ... where no former house hath been known" on threat of "close prison" and "seizure of all building materials." The Crown and the City authorities wished to encourage London's recent arrivals to "provide themselves with other places in the realm where many houses rest uninhabited to the decay of divers ancient good boroughs and towns." (3) London's new and converted buildings acted as material evidence for those outside the capital who accused the City of siphoning off inhabitants, devaluing rental income, and stealing business away from other towns, all of which helped popularize the image of London as the "great wen" or as an "overgrown spleen." One anonymous petitioner from the period complained that "retailers and artificers, at the least of such things as pertain to the back or belly, do leave country towns where there is no vent and do fly to London, where they be sure to find ready and quick market." (4) These complaints should not be dismissed as mere exaggerations. By the mid-seventeenth century, London's high mortality rate coupled with its low birth rate demanded an influx of more than 8,000 new residents annually to sustain its growth, and many, if not most, came from other parts of England. (5)

The rhetoric of the Royal Proclamations placed London's overcrowding and its increased population, and the host of social problems accompanying rapid growth, in a causal relationship to its new buildings and daily altering topography.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Language of Urbanization in John Stow's: Survey of London
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.