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Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London Paperback – May 19, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Picard's latest historical guided tour, of 16th-century London, entertainingly rounds out her trilogy (with Dr. Johnson's London and Restoration London) revisiting the great city's past. Although Elizabethan London boasts no single great diarist like Samuel Pepys or James Boswell, Picard ably sifts through an enormous variety of records, letters, books and other accounts to re-create the urban expanse. Starting with topography and architecture, Picard takes her readers across the Thames and through the neighborhoods of the emergent metropolis, noting the housing and development boom touched off by Henry VIII's appropriation of papal real estate. Her tour continues through every aspect of Elizabethan life, from clothes and food to family and education, from crime and law to jobs and welfare. In such a wide-ranging scheme, the theater, along with other entertainments, is only one aspect of a flourishing society. Picard's discursive, conversational tone prevents even the topic of the water supply, with its newly engineered pipes, from seeming too dry, and her eye for facts (and factoids) can spot intriguing details in even immigrant census data. Despite the book's comprehensive structure, Picard's impressionistic style leads to the occasional oversight. Her section on religion is comparatively brief (though still interesting) for the era's most important politi?al and social issue. Although she discusses the endemic smallpox, which scarred even the queen, she hardly touches on "the French pox," i.e. syphilis, which had been recently introduced. Nonetheless, this vibrant social history makes the city of five centuries ago seem as alive as today's, if not more. 32 pages of color photos, maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This is the story of what Picard calls "ordinary people," Londoners during Queen Elizabeth's reign, 1558 to 1603. Much of the author's monumental research is based on John Stow's Survey of London (1598), William Harrison's Description of England (1587), and diaries kept by people whom she describes as "moderately prosperous men." Picard examines life on the Thames, London's main streets, its water supply and sewerage, its buildings and their interiors and furniture, and its gardens and churchyards. But most of the book describes the people: their health, illnesses, medicine, clothes, jewels, cosmetics, food, and drinks. Picard also chronicles their sexual customs, marriage, family life, death, education, and amusements. There are chapters on crime and punishment, the poor and the welfare system, and religion. An appendix explains Elizabethan words and pronunciation; another gives examples of its^B currency, wages, and prices; and there are 45 illustrations. All this amounts to an astonishing book in scope and imagery--certainly one of the most detailed accounts of life in that era ever written. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312325665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312325664
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Desmond VINE VOICE on May 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is unique in that it doesn't deal with the great sweep of history and its players so much as dwell on day to day life. In particular, the daily life of ordinary people who, in their own way, were not players on the larger stage. Rather, these people were those folk just going about their life.

Any moderately well read student of the 16th century would be familiar with the world of Henry VIII, Elizabeth, Shakespeare, Francis Drake and the Spanish Armada. Yet how many of these students would be familiar with the gardens, religious beliefs, medicine, fashions and diets of the era? Yes, many would have a smattering of knowledge but Liza Picard has done a fine job in providing many of these details of life plus a host of others. Who, for example, would be familiar with such amusements as bull, bear or even lion baiting? Imagine the spectacle of setting a lion in a pit with a team of dogs for a fight to the finish; unthinkable today but of the greatest sport during Elizabeth's time.

Liza Picard's book is an unusual work of history. She has chosen to deconstruct a different world to that of most historians. Her focus has been upon the ordinary rather than the glamorous. Ms Picard has chosen a different road to travel but one that is very fulfilling for the reader. Elizabeth I was, in my opinion, the most important woman to ever live. This book goes some of the way to providing background to an extraordinary woman living in an extraordinary age.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale on September 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
I stumbled on Liza Picard's books quite by chance. After looking at the publishing date in some of the books it is apparent some of them have been around for several years. I am now recommending them to anyone and everyone and I am so glad I stumbled across this one on a bookshop shelf. I have now read them all, but this one was the first.

As soon as you start to read the book it becomes apparent that the author is passionate about the subject and wants the reader to enjoy the experience as much as she has in the writing of it. How apt that the author starts the book with the life blood of the great City of London. Meandering like a great artery through the heart of the City. It moves on to the streets, houses and gardens; cooking, housework and shopping; clothes, jewellery and make-up; health and medicine; sex and food; education, etiquette and hobbies; religion, law and crime.

Liza Picard was born in 1927. She read law and qualified as a barrister but did not practice. Quite where she gleaned all this information from I am not sure. That it was a labour of love is obvious to anyone who reads her books and I for one am grateful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By gabrielannouncer on October 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not a weighty type of history book or a scholarly tome (these have their own merits) but rather a chatty, catty intimate sort of conversation regarding the nitty gritty aspects of Elizabethan life. Don't be deceived by the author's quirky earthy sense of humour--she knows her stuff and has done painstaking research.
The format is more like a news entry--there are small sections with a heading for each topic. She flies from subject to subject in an energetic and gossipy style.
It's a great book to pick up and open up at random. There is no need to stick to one topic, you can flit around with the author. But while you are have a laugh, you will be learning so much. The fact and findings in this book cover a great range of fascinating topics dealing with the most intimate aspects of daily and royal life of the times. The author leaves no stone unturned and is not shy about it!
This book is meant to be enjoyed and shared with others :)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alison Bonar on September 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful source of information regarding life in Elizabethan times at all social levels. There are maps which help you visualize the London of Elizabeth I and Henry VIII.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Small on August 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book does a very good job at portraying how ordinary people lived their lives in the time of the Good Queen Bessie, from what they ate and wore to their furniture and sewage conditions. The only complaint that I have about it is that it is very difficult to visualize the descriptions of the clothing, and when referenced to one of the pictures I still didn't know what part of the outfit she was talking about. I would have rated this a 5 out of 5 if it would have included labled diagrams of the clothing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By kathi-o on June 16, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Liza Picard has her finger on the pulse of Elizabethan London. The grime and the glamour are uniquely portrayed in this excellent work. The author knows her stuff, being an English historian specializing in the history of London. This is not her only book on the history of London, but it is the first chronologically. She read law at the London School of Economics and was called to the bar at Gray's Inn. Her research is thorough so that "she may speak with the voice of her times." I recommend this book and the others in the series, if they want historical accuracy as well as insight and humor into a fascinating city and fascinating times.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Emma on May 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Liza Picard is obviously passionate about her subject and it shows. This is the best book on Elizabethan history I have read so far. It gives a good view of London. The guilds, the different classes (it doesn't just focus on the nobility), housing, the theatre... In all a great book.
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Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London
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