Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-m8qmq Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-22T14:10:15.738Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

8 - Urbanisation

from PART II - CURRENTS OF CHANGE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2018

Phil Withington
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
Keith Wrightson
Affiliation:
Yale University, Connecticut
Get access

Summary

In 1621 Robert Burton moaned that ‘The Low countries have three cities at least for one of ours, and those far more populous and rich’, singular in their ‘industry and excellency in all manner of trades’. England, in contrast, had ‘swarms of rogues and beggars, thieves, drunkards and discontented persons, many poor people in all our Towns, Civitates ignobiles as Polydore calls them, base cities, inglorious, poor, small, and rare in sight, and thin of inhabitants’. In sum, ‘England … (London only excepted) hath never a populous city, and [is] yet a fruitful country.

Until recently this depiction of English towns and cities has resonated with English urban historians of the early modern period in at least three respects. First, just as Burton invoked a depleted urban culture haunted by the spectre of poverty, so the prevailing interpretative paradigm has been ‘crisis’. The thriving communities of the medieval era are understood to have experienced cultural decline, economic trauma, and pronounced social stratification and conflict during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It was only after 1660 that an English ‘urban renaissance’ is thought to have seen the rejuvenation of many older settlements and the emergence of new industrial centres that broke the mould of the traditional urban system. Secondly, just as Burton singled out London as the exception to this rule, so historians have viewed the metropolis as an English urban anomaly – a place that experienced its own problems but also had a distinct and, indeed, positive impact on English society and economy more generally. The division of labour between metropolitan and provincial historiography has only served to compound this sense of London's uniqueness. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, just as Burton described a relative urban deficit in England so ‘the urban’ is a less than conspicuous feature of English social historiography. Peter Laslett did not regard towns and cities as a prominent part of ‘the world we have lost’, describing early modern England as ‘a rural hinterland attached to a vast metropolis through a network of insignificant local centres’. Even metropolitan London was less ‘a civic site’, than a landscape of ‘village communities’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2017

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

  • Urbanisation
  • Edited by Keith Wrightson, Yale University, Connecticut
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1500–1750
  • Online publication: 28 May 2018
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781107300835.009
Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

  • Urbanisation
  • Edited by Keith Wrightson, Yale University, Connecticut
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1500–1750
  • Online publication: 28 May 2018
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781107300835.009
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Urbanisation
  • Edited by Keith Wrightson, Yale University, Connecticut
  • Book: A Social History of England, 1500–1750
  • Online publication: 28 May 2018
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781107300835.009
Available formats
×