Three major conclusions are derived from close study of Britain's pioneering directories in the 1770s and 1780s. First, they show that over 30,000 leading townsmen and women were enmeshed into the burgeoning knowledge grid through the public listings of their addresses, status and occupations. Secondly, a close examination of that information reveals a notable extent of occupational specialization – among both men and women, and among individuals and the nascent firms – thus confirming one of Adam Smith's key observations about the nature of Britain's increasingly commercialized, if still largely pre-mechanized, economy. Thirdly, aggregative analysis highlights systematic differences in the socio-economic characteristics of different towns: from manufacturing, commercial and professional centres to the great capital cities to the specialist leisure towns and resorts – all interlocking in an inter-dependent urban network. Hence this evidence suggests that a generic re-interpretation of all large towns as ‘residential leisure towns’ on the strength of their flourishing cultural life (as recently proposed by Stobart and Schwarz) is misleading, as it obscures significant systemic differences between different types of towns. At the same time, however, the interlinked urban network was generating a confidently shared urbanism, bridging between aristocratic and middle-class society. That link was exemplified by the listing of numerous titled and gentlemanly ‘town gentry’ alongside the business leaders – as the directories in effect flourished their collective calling cards.