A great and monstrous thing : London in the eighteenth century /

"London in the eighteenth century was a new city, risen from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1666 that had destroyed half its homes and great public buildings. The century that followed was an era of vigorous expansion and large-scale projects, of rapidly changing culture and commerce, as huge n...

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Main Author: White, Jerry, 1949- (Author)
Format: Book
Published:Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2013.
Edition:1st Harvard University Press ed.
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Review by Choice Review

With this volume, White completes an extraordinary trilogy begun with London in the Nineteenth Century (2007) and London in the Twentieth Century (2001). As in the earlier books, he addresses five broad topics: city, people, work, culture, and power. Differently here, he uses brief biographies of 14 representative figures--such as architect James Woods, impresario Teresa Cornelys, philanthropist Jonas Hanway, and radical John Wilkes--to begin thematic essays involving scores of Londoners. The variety is striking: from the desperate poor in alley and workhouse to the rich and often well-born patrons of Exchange, gaming table, and brothel; from the many victims of Tyburn to the "hanging classes" of magistrate's bench and beyond; from Wilkite pressure for political justice to sectarian madness in the Gordon Riots. White's 19th-century London will see greater change, so here the analysis seems less sequential than cross-sectional. Although excellent plates and bibliography serve readers well, the contemporary street maps, so dim as reproduced, do not. But this is to quibble, for the narrative is superb and richly informed, incisively and sympathetically evoking the city Defoe had thought a "great and monstrous thing." Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers/libraries. G. F. Steckley Knox College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The titular superlative, courtesy of Daniel Defoe, aptly fits this engrossing history of the city that by 1700 had surpassed Paris to become the largest in Europe. Veteran British historian White (London in the Twentieth Century) delivers a focused, mostly chronological account in 13 chapters, each covering a single aspect of the city and built around a significant, if sometimes obscure, personage-Samuel Johnson (who once remarked that "[w]hen a man is tired of London, he is tired of life"), Henry Fielding, and John Wilkes make appearances. But there is also Ignatius Sanchez-writer, composer, and freed slave whose chapter reveals the city's rich stew of nations, races, and religions, and Mary Young, hanged after a life of thievery in a city with unimaginably high levels of crime and prostitution. White's encyclopedic knowledge may, like bustling London, overwhelm some, but this is still a richly satisfying compendium of history, biography, anecdote, and statistics on the great city's daily life, vibrant culture, and byzantine politics. 13 images, 13 maps. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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