Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Margarette Lincoln's "London and the Seventeenth Century"

Margarette Lincoln was a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London from 2015 to 2020, and is Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, where she was Deputy Director until 2015.

Lincoln applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, London and the Seventeenth Century: The Making of the World's Greatest City, and reported the following:
Page 99 describes the panic in London after King Charles I had tried (and failed) to arrest opposition MPs in the House of Commons. His bold action was regarded as an attack on the institution of parliament itself. Afterwards, there were rumours that royalist mercenaries were about to take the town. At night, ‘men ran from door to door, rousing citizens and warning them to arm themselves. The City portcullises were lowered, chains were put across streets, barricades of tubs and benches were erected to obstruct cavalry, and women boiled water to pour over attackers.’

The test works well on my book. Obviously, page 99 describes just one brief episode, but it does indicate the importance of London to the history of seventeenth-century England; it relates to the key issue of the people’s struggle to uphold parliamentary representation in the face of absolute royal power; and it shows the role of women.

Page 99 goes on to explain that Londoners were worried that the same bloody outrages that Catholic rebels were currently inflicting on Protestants in Ireland were about to take place in their own streets. Clearly, events in Ireland strongly resonated in the capital – as did events in Scotland; this is a book that looks beyond London itself. Mass demonstrations then followed in London, with citizens’ unrest fuelled by a slump in trade. This reflects other key themes in the book: the role and importance of ordinary Londoners, not just royalty and military figures, and the history of London as a port alongside its social and political history. Crucially, page 99 also points to the religious division that helped to make the seventeenth century one of the most turbulent in London’s history.
Visit Margarette Lincoln's website.

--Marshal Zeringue