London and the 17th Century: The Making of the World’s Greatest City by Margarette Lincoln - review by Adrian Tinniswood

Adrian Tinniswood

So Many Little Worlds

London and the 17th Century: The Making of the World’s Greatest City

By

Yale University Press 372pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

Margarette Lincoln has chosen her subject well. The 17th century is the most incident-packed period in the history of England, never mind London. Beginning with an attempt to blow up James I and ending with the Glorious Revolution and an aesthetic and scientific renaissance, it saw a series of vicious civil wars, the establishment of a godly republic, the execution of one king and the deposing of another, a plague that killed a fifth of the capital’s population and a fire that destroyed its religious and commercial centre along with most of its housing. It is quite a story.

Lincoln romps through a history of London during this period, taking in everything from coffee-house culture and Catholicism to interior decoration and immigration. She is particularly good on London’s developing cosmopolitanism under the Stuarts. The capital was home to a growing black population, made up largely of seamen and servants.

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