London in the eighteenth century was very much a new city, risen from the ashes of the Great Fire. With thousands of homes and many landmark buildings destroyed, it had been brought to the brink. But the following century was a period of vigorous expansion, of scientific and artistic genius, of blossoming reason, civility, elegance and manners. It was also an age of extremes: of starving poverty and exquisite fashion, of joy and despair, of sentiment and cruelty. Society was fractured by geography, politics, religion and history. And everything was complicated by class. As Daniel Defoe put it, London really was a 'great and monstrous Thing'.
Jerry White's tremendous portrait of this turbulent century explores how and to what extent Londoners negotiated and repaired these open wounds. We see them going about their business as bankers or beggars, revelling in an enlarging world of public pleasures, indulging in crimes both great and small - amidst the tightening sinews of power and regulation, and the hesitant beginnings of London democracy.
In the long-awaited finale to his acclaimed history of London over 300 years, Jerry White introduces us to shopkeepers and prostitutes, men and women of fashion and genius, street-robbers and thief-takers, as they play out the astonishing drama of life in eighteenth-century London.
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Together with Iain Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd, White is one of our great chroniclers of London and this beautifully written, impeccably researched and incredibly generous book is a necessity for those of us who are not yet tired of life - Daily Telegraph
A dazzling account... White is a reliable and animated guide - Daily Express
Spiralling stories enliven every page of Jerry White’s magnificent, fully annotated, accessible and scholarly book - Tablet
Sober yet incisive in his assessments, comprehensive in his coverage, and gimlet-eyes in his choice of detail, he offers an invigorating yet thoughtful tour through London’s most extraordinary and bracing of centuries - Sunday Times
Must Reads - Comprehensive, energetic study full of incisive details - Sunday Times Culture
It’s hard to see how a more detailed and readable account of Defoe’s ‘great and monstrous thing’ could be written - Time Out
[A] page-turner biography of the capital, full of amazing facts and anecdotes, a book that anyone wanting food for thought about social history or human nature will treasure - Evening Standard
Jerry White's tale is...one of a city swelling physically and taking comfort in its own success and vitality. He tells it with colour, well-researched information and the historian's liking for a good story - Literary Review
Book of the Week - magnificent work - Sunday Telegraph
Magisterial book - Daily Mail
White tells his story not as a chronological narrative...but through a series of themes: city, people, work, culture, power. It’s an enterprising way to marshal such detailed and fact-filled research...great thesis - Spectator
This book offers informed and fascinating insights into life in Georgian London. The vast amount of material it contains is marshalled in a logical and satisfactory manner, not only to make sense of a complex story, but also to tell a good tale. The author moves skilfully from the general to the particular... In this way, the book chronicles the changing moods, fashions and evolving, all-embracing ideas of that era in a most intimate manner... It's a tremendous work - well researched, well written, solid and reliable, mastering a complex subject in an authoritative account that is a pleasure to read - Country Life
A vast and impressive synthesis... One of my favourite facts in the book is a comparative one. There were, he tells us, far more wooden-legged men in 18th-century London than in any other city In Europe. It’s the kind of telling detail that sticks in the mind, that conjures up an entire lost world, and that Jerry White uses time and again to animate his wonderful panorama - Guardian
Professor Jerry White teaches London history at Birkbeck, University of London. His London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People won the Wolfson History Prize in 2001 and his bestselling London in the Nineteenth Century was published to critical acclaim in 2007. His oral histories, Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East End Tenement Block 1887-1920 (which won the Jewish Chronicle non-fiction book prize in 1980) and Campbell Bunk: the Worst Street in North London Between the Wars, were reprinted by Pimlico in 2003. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by the University of London in 2005 and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.