London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550-1750 is an extensive account of a crucial period that witnessed the city’s rise to worldwide prominence, during which it dominated the social, political, and cultural life of the British Isles as never before nor since. Beginning in the sixteenth century, historians Robert Bucholz and Joseph P. Ward chart the critical factors that triggered the city’s remarkable transformation from a backwater city to the crown jewel of a global empire that stretched from Canada to India, and everywhere in between. Drawing on the latest in urban history, accounts by contemporary Londoners and tourists, and fictional works featuring the city, London explores the city’s pivotal role as a harbinger of modernity.
From the splendid galleries of Whitehall to the dingy alleyways of East End, Bucholz and Ward traverse the whole of London. In lively detail, they illustrate the serious challenges its residents faced as the city’s population swelled to over 675,000 by 1750: plague, poverty, overcrowding, crime, and political instability (to name only a few). Yet London was also a culturally vibrant place, too—home to stage plays, street musicians, taverns, coffeehouses, pleasure gardens, and the busiest printing presses in the nation. As Samuel Johnson once remarked: “[There] is in London all that life can afford.”
A must-have for both first-time visitors and long-time residents, London is a vividly-told history of a city that did more to catalyze modernity than any other.
Joseph P. Ward is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Metropolitan Communities: Trade Guilds, Identity, and Change in Early Modern London (1997).