Liza Picard's Elizabeth's London
completes a trilogy of books on London throughout history, starting with Restoration London
and followed by Dr Johnson's London
. From the outset, Picard admits that Elizabethan London proved an even greater challenge to reconstruct, as "few buildings survive", and "artefacts and clothes from the time are rare". Nevertheless, through painstaking detail, Picard wonderfully recreates the crowded chaotic sights and smells of everyday life in late 16th-century London.
Her journey starts, like so many admirers of the city from Chaucer to Ackroyd, on the river Thames, "a uniform opaque grey" in Elizabeth's time, but "fairly unpolluted, judging from all the fish in it," and "a superb processional route between the royal palaces." From here Picard surveys London life, from its main streets, its water supply and its civic buildings of timber and stone, to the houses, people, clothes, food, drink and entertainment that defined one of the most prosperous cities in 16th-century Europe.
Everything is told in all its raw, sensual detail, from the ways in which "the butcher's professional skills" were used to disembowel those unfortunate enough to be convicted of capital offences, to the cost of pins for dressmaking--one shilling and eight pence per thousand. At times, the sheer detail of Picard's book can be overwhelming, and there is no specific argument that unites her observations, but the sheer scale of information is extremely impressive. -Jerry Brotton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
this is a book for ducking and weaving through.... this makes satisfying toilet reading - especially the bits about how private loos in the age of Shakespeare were even nastier than our nastiest public loos today. (Christopher Bray THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
Liza Picard brilliantly captures the spirit of the age. (EXPRESS
ELIZABETH'S LONDON is satisfyingly rich and substantial. (Daniel Hahn AROUND THE GLOBE