Scenes From London Life

Maureen Waller


London in 1700 was a capital on the verge of a new century and at the dawn of the modern age, a place of untold potential, caught on the cusp between Englandís medieval past and a fabulous future. After the revolution of 1688, England could look forward to a new century with boundless optimism and ebullience, as the unprecedented riches of commerce and colonialism appeared on the horizon.

London was more than just a capital city. Its citizens had witnessed the unthinkable - the public execution of a king at Whitehall. Thousands had died in the plague of 1665, while many saw the cityís very fabric raised to the ground in the Great Fire of 1666. But from the ashes rose a phoenix. A modern city was rebuilt, The shining dome of Christopher Wrenís St Paulís Cathedral symbolising a new strength and confidence. London, with a population of over half a million, was now Europeís largest, richest and most cosmopolitan city.

But there was a less glittering side to Londonís success. Life was precarious, drink, gambling and cruel sports were the peopleís palliatives. As men, women and children poured into the metropolis, employment, shelter and sustenance became increasingly scarce. As London flourished, so too did crime and prostitution.

Maureen Waller describes a familiar yet alien world - it is as if we are looking in a distorted mirror. A panoply of anecdotes, detail and amusing contrasts, the book draws on a range of sources from court records, newspapers and pamphlets to eyewitness accounts in diaries, letters, travelogues and memoirs. She has created a vividly colourful vision of a city at a unique moment in its - and our - history.

ISBN 0-340-73966-5


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