How London’s horizons expanded to encompass the globeby Ben Wilson / May 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
London’s Triumph: Merchant Adventures in the Tudor City by Stephen Alford (Allen Lane, £20)
At the start the 16th century, London was an unspectacular city, marginal to the commerce and politics of the continent. It was a satellite of the great European entrepôt, Antwerp; its merchants were content to trade only as far as the Baltic, the Low Countries and France. In this compelling and lucid account of Tudor London, Stephen Alford shows us a city undergoing dizzying transformation.
By the century’s close, London’s population had quadrupled, its population swollen by migrants from the countryside and Europe. Grand buildings rose in the city; so did fetid suburbs. At the close of Elizabeth I’s reign, it was a big, densely-populated, dangerous, urban world. By then, London’s horizons had expanded to encompass the globe. Innovative corporations traded to Russia, the Levant, Persia, the Far East and North America. London had become a global powerhouse.