1700: Scenes from London Life

1700: Scenes from London Life

1700: Scenes from London Life

1700: Scenes from London Life

Synopsis

Waller combines investigative reporting with popular history, eyewitness accounts, court records, contemporary letters, and eyewitness descriptions to portray the debauchery and refinement of London urban life 300 years ago. Illustrations throughout.

Excerpt

'. . . the chiefest emporium, or town of trade in the world; the largest and most populous, the fairest and most opulent city at this day in all Europe, perhaps the whole world'

LONDON IN 1700 was the most magnificent city in Europe. It took its beauty from Wren's skyline of churches, especially as viewed m the river. Dominating the city, the new St Paul's rested on its hilltop nearing completion. Only the dome was outstanding, prompting the wag Ned Ward's analogy, 'As slow as a Paul's workman with a bucket of mortar'. The River Thames was the artery of the metropolis, the wide thoroughfare dotted with thousands of pleasure craft and red and green passenger boats plying their trade. London Bridge with its density of houses and souvenir shops was the only bridge linking the north and south banks. And below it at the Port of London the ships lined up like a floating forest to unload their cargoes from the furthest corners of the world. Only a few miles away the hills of Hampstead and Highgate provided a reassuring rural backdrop to the thriving metropolis at their feet.

The capital dominated the kingdom to an extent that it has never done before or since. It was home to at least 530,000 people -- one in nine of the entire population -- while the second city, Norwich, had a population of 30,000. Not only did so many of William III's subjects live in London, but the city impinged on the lives of many more. It was a magnet to all classes. Aristocracy and gentry flocked to London to be seen at court, to attend parliament, to settle their legal affairs, to enjoy the season and arrange marriages for their children, and to shop. London was a shopper's paradise, a great emporium of goods for its hungry consumers. The booming newspaper industry in Grub Street found a ready market in London's coffee-houses where everything was up for discussion. London was the centre of a lively publishing trade, the . . .

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