Seventeenth-century London experienced explosive population growth, plague epidemics, social and political revolution, and a devastating fire. No Londoner can have been unaffected, but many people managed to live quiet and productive lives amid the turbulence. Richard Smyth, a city law-officer, was one of them: he worked for the City all his life, through the upheavals of the 1640s and 50s, despite his Royalist and Anglican sympathies. He married, brought up a family, maintained links with a range of kin, friends, and acquaintances, and enjoyed a comfortable retirement building an extensive collection of books. This paper will look at the scattered evidence for his life and reflect on continuities as well as changes in the lives of early modern Londoners.
Vanessa Harding is Professor of London History at Birkbeck University of London. Her research focuses on medieval and early modern London, with a particular interest in housing and the built environment, family and household, health and disease and death and burial. She is currently investigating the life of Richard Smith though his writings as a means to explore early modern London, including the experience of plague.