Just the sort of book that gives history a good name, 1700: Scenes from London Life
presents almost a glut of the kind of daily life (and death) detail which proves utterly engaging, striking chords of familiarity or describing almost unimaginable worlds. We discover where people lived and worked, how they behaved, what they wore and ate and how horrifically they suffered from illness and injury. A booming London appears modern in its commercialization and overt materialism. It was "the most magnificent city in Europe" yet "the streets were open sewers" and life there was so precarious that it might be described as "a mere prelude to death". The world of 1700
is brought vividly to life by imaginative vignettes drawn from the author's research and by excerpts from contemporary diarists, novelists and commentators, whose works are listed in the extensive bibliography. A relatively long book, it can be dipped into, as the chapters are thematically organized. In fact, open the book at any page and the intriguing detail will leap out and grab you. Creatively written, the text is so colorful that the slightly disappointing illustrations are not much of a drawback. This is a truly enticing read, exploring a period of significant development in London and clearly indicating the importance of this point in England's history. --Karen Tiley, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
British historian and editor Waller contrasts the 18th century with the 21st in this radiant book. She sketches London at the turn of the 18th century--when the city, poised between two worlds, hosted remnants of the medieval world alongside harbingers of the empire that was to come. London in 1700, she notes, was both growing more modern--industry was thriving, trade was expanding and the country had its first constitutional monarchs--and, simultaneously, suffering from old troubles, including high mortality rates, poor drinking water and rampant, unchecked disease. Similarly, at the beginning of the 21st century, she suggests, we are wandering among the survivals of the age that's just ended and the precursors of a world whose outlines we cannot yet see. The resemblance between the two eras gives a piquancy to the text, but even if there were no such correspondence, there would still be a great deal to praise in this very fine book. Waller has mined the archival record for fascinating details of 18th-century British marriage and childbirth, disease and death, home and fashion, work and play, religion and vice, crime and punishment, and she includes an exhaustive bibliography. Although the book's chapters (grouped into such topics as childbirth, marriage and disease)--despite a plethora of vivid anecdotes--never really cohere into a unified narrative, this rigorous, informative and entertaining text deserves a wide readership. (May)
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