This Picture of the London of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) is the result of Liza Picard's curiosity about the practical details of daily life that almost every history book ignores. As seen in her two previous, highly acclaimed books -- Restoration London and Dr. Johnson's London -- she has immersed herself in contemporary sources of every kind.
She begins with the River Thames, the lifeblood of Elizabethan London. The city, on the north bank of the river, was still largely confined within old Roman walls. Upriver at Westminster were the royal palaces, and between them and the crowded city the mansions of the great and the good commanded the river frontage. Liza Picard turns her spotlight on the streets and the traffic in them. She surveys building methods -- London was a vast development site as the former monastic properties were absorbed into the housing stock -- and shows us the interior decor of the rich and the not-so-rich, and what they were likely to be growing in their gardens.
Then the Londoners of the time take the stage, in all their amazing finery. Plague, smallpox, and other diseases afflicted them. But food and drink, sex and marriage and family life provided comfort, a good education was always useful, and cares could be forgotten in a playhouse or the bull-baiting or bear-baiting rings, or watching a good cockfight.
Immigrants from the Low Countries and France posed problems. Londoners were proud of the religious tolerance that attracted Protestant victims from the Continent, but were not so sure about the effects these skillful migrants might have on their own livelihoods. This was a city ruled by the livery companies and their apprentice system, and foreigners were closely watched. For many, poverty was never far away. And Henry VIII's destruction of the monasteries had caused an acute crisis in poverty management. Begging was one answer. Forcing the wealthy to pay for the poor -- through a parochial poor rate -- was another.
Liza Picard's wonderfully skillful and vivid evocation of the London of four hundred years ago enables us to share the delights, as well as the horrors, of the everyday lives of sixteenth-century Britons. Book jacket.