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London and the 17th Century Reviews

London and the 17th Century by Margarette Lincoln

London and the Seventeenth Century: The Making of the World's Greatest City

Margarette Lincoln

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: Yale University Press
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 9 Feb 2021
ISBN: 9780300248784

The first comprehensive history of seventeenth-century London, told through the lives of those who experienced it

4 stars out of 5
6 Feb 2021

"The capital in the 1600s was stinking, chaotic — and the place to be"

Her book speaks to the resilience of cities: they can withstand all kinds of disasters; opulence grows in the mire. Like many cities before and since, the foetid state of the metropolis was a sign not of failure, but of success. People wanted to be there, and they crowded on top of one another to gain a stake in the boomtown, taking their chances with pestilence and crime. London was, by the end of the 17th century, a hotbed of innovation, a reminder that cities are the products of their people, not of their buildings (which burn down) or their governments (which bungle). 


4 stars out of 5
6 Feb 2021

"a vivid portrayal of a metropolis in the grip of alarming, bewildering and constant change"

Lincoln skilfully steers her narrative through such political squalls without losing sight of the background, as Londoners tried to survive and get on with their lives. Hardly any aspect of the city’s teeming scenes escapes her. We move lodgings with Shakespeare, tread the boards with Nell Gwyn in Aphra Behn’s plays, plan the city’s reconstruction with Christopher Wren, join the Royal Society with Isaac Newton and suffer with the Earl of Strafford, Archbishop Laud, the Duke of Monmouth and the regicides as they meet their deaths on the block. The sheer volume of dazzling data sometimes seems overwhelming. But if you want to know how it felt to be in the city when it previously faced and overcame such epochal events, then this is the book for you. 

4 stars out of 5
John Carey
31 Jan 2021

"A thrilling account of the capital during its most dramatic and important era"

Lincoln is adept at spotting eloquent details that stick in the mind. She notes, for example, that after the Gunpowder conspiracy the “juddering” signature that Guido Fawkes appended to his confession indicates how brutally he had been tortured on the rack.

She records that, at the trial of Charles I, Lord President Bradshaw, who was prosecuting, wore a bullet-proof hat lined with sheet iron, and that, after the king’s execution, the items from the dead monarch’s personal effects that Cromwell chose to keep included the royal commode, padded and upholstered in red velvet.