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Comment: 1700: Scenes from London Life Hardcover by Maureen Waller (Author) Very slight wear around DJ, otherwise DJ and all pages clear and clean.
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1700: Scenes from London Life Hardcover – June 4, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st American ed edition (June 4, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568581645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568581644
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,711,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on June 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book and I had a great time reading it. It is full of many interesting tidbits on many topics, such as: marriage, childbirth, death, fashion, food and drink, amusements, coffeehouses and taverns, etc. The book is beautifully written and holds your attention from start to finish. Here is the first paragraph from the opening chapter, concerning marriage: "Thirty-four years after the Great Fire, the worshippers at St. Paul's still gaze up at open sky. Within a decade, Wren's completed dome will cast a shadow over the grim Fleet Prison, the ominous building where debtors count out their days. At the foot of Ludgate Hill lies the Fleet Ditch, wide enough for a coal barge to sail north to Holborn, if it can tackle the stinking sewage, discarded guts and offal, drowned puppies and dead cats sliding down its muddy channel towards the Thames. Passing the brawling concert of fishwives and stall-holders gathered around the Fleet Bridge, we come to a warren of alleyways known as the Rules of the Fleet. Here, forty marriage-houses do a busy trade." Every chapter is chock-full of interesting things and I guarantee that no matter how many books you may have read on English history you will still learn many things and be thoroughly entertained. In the chapter on disease, for example, you learn a little about sanitary conditions and the state of medical knowledge. Here are two quotes:"Contaminated food and drinking water caused frequent outbursts of bacterial stomach infections. Flies traveled from faeces to food. It did not occur to those preparing or handling food to wash their hands after defecating.Read more ›
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By John Stark Bellamy II on August 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Waller's vibrant social history is an entertaining introduction to life as it was lived by Londoners in the era of William & Mary. Divided into topical and thematic chapters covering the stages of family life (Marriage, Childbirth, Childhood, Death, etc.), the minutae of daily life (Fashion, Food and Drink, Amusements, etc.) and period brutalities (Religion and Superstition, Prostitution and Vice, Crime and Punishment, etc.), Waller's smoothly-written chronicle is a lively tour of a fascinating, dynamic and ghastly civilization. Although solidly based on primary resources, Waller wears her learning lightly and her book is a triumphant panorama of the epoch it surveys. Not to mention being a fine antidote to any nostalgia for the age of Defoe and Swift. It also serves as an excellent non-fiction companion to David Liss' period novel "A Conspiracy of Paper."
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Roger Paulding on July 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is fantastic. It tells you stuff about everyday life in London at the turn of the 18th century that I spent hours and hours learning by reading old books in the Clayton genealogical library in Houston. If you working in this period, the book is invaluable. It is concise, yet covers the minutea of everyday life. Miss Manners of that day is quoted with instructions that if several eat from a large communal bowl, you should not dip your spoon in a second time without wiping it off; and to not fill your mouth with so much food, your cheeks swell like a pair of Scotch bagpipes. [Yes, they said Scotch, and not Scottish.] What is fun is that this era opened up much of modern day life and that turn of the century saw the introduction of the "toast," thick cream [eggnog], punch, coffee and tea. Coffee houses came into existence, and the varieties of specialty shops that could be accommodated as people began to make enough money to buy commodities they had previously bartered for or made themselves. Unlike in Dickens' time, the 18th century issued in a time of great prosperity in England.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Smith on December 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book a few years ago while I was doing geneaological research. It seems I have a French Huguenot relative who came to America from a small ship he boarded in London in the Fall of 1700. I saw this book advertised somewhere and had to have it. This book helped me to see London the way my ancestor must have seen it in the months he spent there before his voyage. This is a fascinating, extremely well-written book. I felt I could feel, touch and taste 1700 London. My imagination was most gratified as I imagined what it must have been like to live at that particular time and place.

It's a fine read even if you have no purpose for reading it other than the delight found in reading an excellent book; oh, and it's a cheap vacation and exercise in time travel.

Congratulations and thanks to the author for an excellent job!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By saskatoonguy on August 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Oops, I meant to give this five stars, but the software won't let me change my rating. I thoroughly enjoyed this author's "London 1945," so I wanted to read her treatment of this earlier era. It's amazing that one person can be so knowledgable of social history of such disparate periods. The author introduces us to every aspect of daily life in 1700 London using a very readable style of writing.

Here are the chapter titles (in some instances, I've paraphrased): 1) Marriage, 2) Childbirth, 3) Childhood, 4) Disease, 5) Death, 6) The Home, 7) Fashion, 8) Food, 9) Coffee-houses & taverns, 10) Amusements, 11) Work, 12) The Poor, 13) Foreigners, 14) Religion, 15) Vice, and 16) Crime & Punishment. There are almost fifty b&w illustrations.
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