Professor Vanessa Harding: Ordinary people, extraordinary times: Richard Smyth of London, 1590-1675
Saturday 29 April, 6 - 7pm, OS.0.01, Michael Berry lecture theatre, Old Sessions House
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.
A full colour map showing London in about 1520 - its many churches, monasteries, legal inns, guild halls, and a large number of substantial private houses, in the context of the streets and alleyways that survived the Great Fire and can still be discovered.
This 2002 book is an exploration in social history, showing how the practices surrounding death and burial can illumine urban culture and experience. Vanessa Harding focuses on the crowded and turbulent worlds of early modern London and Paris, and makes rich use of contemporary documentation to compare and contrast their experience of dealing with the dead.
Between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries, in both Western Europe and East Asia, towns and cities helped to shape the individual consciousness, against the background of a more traditional society in which collective values remained strong.