The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0227 Thursday, 7 June 2012
Date: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 4:25 PM
Subject: London Exhibition: Open City: London, 1500-1700
Open City: London, 1500-1700
Curator(s): Kathleen Lynch and Betsy Walsh
Folger Great Hall
Jun 5–Sep 30
Celebrate London this summer with an in-depth look at the city’s early modern past, a time of fire, plague, and religious schisms, as well as international commerce, explosive population growth, and a bubbling mix of new ideas.
Open City: London, 1500-1700 explores how wide-ranging changes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries translated into Londoners’ daily lives and familiar gathering places, from churches and marketplaces to public theaters. Filled with rare maps, books, prints, plays, deeds, diaries, and more, the exhibition explores what life was like in a capital city with some surprising similarities to our own.
Over the course of two centuries, London changed from the capital of England, secure within its medieval walls, to a metropolitan seat of empire. Its population grew tenfold. Some urban developments were spurred by the dissolution of the monasteries, a royal decree that was both politically and religiously motivated. Also reshaping the city were natural tragedies, like repeated bouts of the plague or the Great Fire of 1666 that destroyed more than 13,000 homes, 86 churches, and over 400 acres in the heart of the city. Such events had a significant impact on the built environment, opening up spaces for repurposing.
Open City explores activities and pressures that altered Londoners’ sense of community, focusing especially on three types of institutions that touched everyday lives: church, theater, and market. Drawing on materials as disparate as deeds, diaries, engravings, and maps, Open City illustrates the impact of new ideas, new products, and new people in this rapidly growing capital city.
Between 1500 and 1700, London grew from the capital of England with a population of 50,000 to the seat of an emerging empire with a population nearing 500,000. At the beginning of this period, most of London’s population lived within the medieval walls. By the end, only a minority did. However, at no point did the boundaries of the incorporated city contain the vitality of the metropolitan area. Therefore, Open City takes an expansive view of London, with all of its overlapping and competing authorities, and its influx and exchange of ideas, products, habits, and beliefs that characterize city life. Open City looks to three everyday gathering places where people mixed for business, leisure, and worship.
The state religion of England switched from Catholicism to Protestantism (and back again). But the idea that there should be a state church remained, until eventually the religious controversies that disrupted parish communities made way for certain limited principles and practices of religious freedom in London and elsewhere.
Commercial theaters were a new phenomenon in late sixteenth-century London. The public playhouses brought together people from up and down the social scale. The plays also moved up and down the scale of forms of entertainment, from popular to elite. They brought to life scenes from the faraway world, the affairs of state, and London’s own teeming streets.
Diverging interests within trade companies were changing London’s markets. At the same time, international trade opened those markets to new competitions and products from around the world.
Examining the many and often contested activities within church, theater, and market, Open City: London 1500-1700 juxtaposes the changing ways in which Londoners formed communities, negotiated social relations, and understood their places in the world.
Online Exhibition: http://www.folger.edu/Content/Whats-On/Folger-Exhibitions/Open-City-London-1500-1700/Online-Exhibition/