Worlds within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century Londonby Steve Rappaport

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  • the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the editors of The Journal ofInterdisciplinary History

    Worlds within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London by Steve RappaportReview by: William A. Hunt, Jr.The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Winter, 1992), pp. 502-504Published by: The MIT PressStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/205000 .Accessed: 09/05/2014 14:22

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  • 502 I A. L. BEIER

    The contributions to this Festschrift well reflect Thirsk's approach to the past. The diversity of English rural life that she observed is

    apparent in the papers by John Broad and John Beckett, which show an

    aggressive commercialism in some places, whereas Peter Large indicates that smallholders in some open-field communities escaped the process. Similarly, Barbara Todd finds that women's economic positions varied

    among neighboring villages, because of differing inheritance systems. The position of women is also examined in a fascinating paper by Mary Prior, who suggests that in the seventeenth century more of them made wills and published their thoughts than previously.

    Margaret Spufford presents an acute analysis of probate inventories as evidence of personal wealth. Inventories often ignore credit arrange- ments (apart from good or bad debts) and the expenses of the deceased.

    According to Spufford, these factors possibly lower the median values of people's goods to less than half the totals listed in their inventories.

    The collection contains many essays on other subjects close to Thirsk's interests. The impact of governments upon economic activity is documented in Richard Hoyle's study of the crown's policy toward

    customary tenants, in the essay by Peter Edwards on the Shropshire horse trade, in Andrew Pettegree's study of foreign immigrants in Eliz- abethan London, and in John Chartres' paper on the cider industry. Technological change is examined by Donald Woodward in his essay on manures and by David Hey in his chapter on Sheffield cutlery trades.

    Technology and urbanization are linked in the essay by Malcolm Thick about the introduction of root crops to feed the London poor beginning in the late sixteenth century.

    The only major criticism of the collection is that, like most Fest-

    schrifien, it lacks an overarching theme. This tendency, however, may result from the Leicester approach to history, with its stress upon di-

    versity.

    A. L. Beier Illinois State University

    Worlds within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London. By Steve Rappaport (New York, Cambridge University Press, 1989) 449 PP. $59.50

    There are two books here: a meticulously researched, technically rig- orous monograph on the guildsmen of mid-sixteenth-century London, enveloped in a polemic against pessimistic social historians. The mon-

    ograph is a substantial contribution to early modern urban history. The

    polemic is stimulating but severely flawed. The heart of the monograph is Rappaport's reconstitution of the

    careers of I,ooo members of the powerful London guilds known as

    "livery companies" from the distinctive garb which their leading mem-

    502 I A. L. BEIER

    The contributions to this Festschrift well reflect Thirsk's approach to the past. The diversity of English rural life that she observed is

    apparent in the papers by John Broad and John Beckett, which show an

    aggressive commercialism in some places, whereas Peter Large indicates that smallholders in some open-field communities escaped the process. Similarly, Barbara Todd finds that women's economic positions varied

    among neighboring villages, because of differing inheritance systems. The position of women is also examined in a fascinating paper by Mary Prior, who suggests that in the seventeenth century more of them made wills and published their thoughts than previously.

    Margaret Spufford presents an acute analysis of probate inventories as evidence of personal wealth. Inventories often ignore credit arrange- ments (apart from good or bad debts) and the expenses of the deceased.

    According to Spufford, these factors possibly lower the median values of people's goods to less than half the totals listed in their inventories.

    The collection contains many essays on other subjects close to Thirsk's interests. The impact of governments upon economic activity is documented in Richard Hoyle's study of the crown's policy toward

    customary tenants, in the essay by Peter Edwards on the Shropshire horse trade, in Andrew Pettegree's study of foreign immigrants in Eliz- abethan London, and in John Chartres' paper on the cider industry. Technological change is examined by Donald Woodward in his essay on manures and by David Hey in his chapter on Sheffield cutlery trades.

    Technology and urbanization are linked in the essay by Malcolm Thick about the introduction of root crops to feed the London poor beginning in the late sixteenth century.

    The only major criticism of the collection is that, like most Fest-

    schrifien, it lacks an overarching theme. This tendency, however, may result from the Leicester approach to history, with its stress upon di-

    versity.

    A. L. Beier Illinois State University

    Worlds within Worlds: Structures of Life in Sixteenth-Century London. By Steve Rappaport (New York, Cambridge University Press, 1989) 449 PP. $59.50

    There are two books here: a meticulously researched, technically rig- orous monograph on the guildsmen of mid-sixteenth-century London, enveloped in a polemic against pessimistic social historians. The mon-

    ograph is a substantial contribution to early modern urban history. The

    polemic is stimulating but severely flawed. The heart of the monograph is Rappaport's reconstitution of the

    careers of I,ooo members of the powerful London guilds known as

    "livery companies" from the distinctive garb which their leading mem-

    This content downloaded from 62.122.76.35 on Fri, 9 May 2014 14:22:10 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

    http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

  • REVIEWS | 503

    bers were entitled to wear. It was solely through admission to one of these companies that male residents could acquire the full rights of

    citizenship in the capital-the "freedom of London." Rappaport's sample consists of 530 men who achieved this "freedom" during the years 155I- 1553, and 470 of their already "free" masters. This enormously pains- taking research yields a mass of information about the demographic, economic, and social opportunities and hazards which confronted the "middling sort" in Tudor London. The author's statistical methodology is sophisticated, and he appears thoroughly conversant with the concepts and techniques of historical demography. Methodological details are sensibly relegated to footnotes and appendices, but appear (to a nonspe- cialist) fully adequate.

    Rappaport's impressive mastery of archival sources and secondary literature enables him to flesh out these skeletal careers with a wealth of detail. The result is a richly textured portrait of the London companies as energetic institutions which performed a variety of social and eco- nomic functions. Their vitality-as Rappaport persuasively argues- showed no sign of waning in the Tudor century. He argues forcefully against the view that London was a chaotic and unstable city. He rightly observes that, for all of the anxiety expressed on occasion by royal and

    municipal authorities, mob violence was infrequent in early modern London and, for the most part, easily contained.

    Rappaport's evidence cannot, however, support some of his more

    sweeping conclusions. For example, he repeatedly claims to have dem- onstrated that fully two thirds of the households of London lived well above the poverty line. Yet his evidence for this assertion is drawn

    exclusively from the tax records of the livery companies. These records indicate that 69 percent of the householders within these companies paid taxes, and that the average assessment equaled a journeyman's wages for two weeks. We can agree with Rappaport that such an assessment is indicative of at least modest prosperity. But, as Rappaport elsewhere

    acknowledges, only about three fourths of the adult males of the City were company members, and only three fifths of the company members were householders. The company tax records, therefore, suggest that only one third of the adult male population was, by this measure, economically comfortable.

    Moreover, Rappaport has confined his study entirely to the City of London: the twenty-six medieval wards within the walls, plus South- wark after 1556. He takes no account of the suburban "liberties," which were largely exempt from the authority of the municipal government and the livery companies. The liberties were notoriously poorer and more violent than the City. None of the sample guildsmen lived there.

    Rappaport feels entitled to exclude the liberties on the grounds that a

    majority of London's sixteenth-century population still lived within the

    (upper-case) City. This assertion is technically true, but it obscures the central dynamic of London's growth. For the liberties were growing twice as rapidly as the City. The proportion of greater London's pop-

    This content downloaded from 62.122.76.35 on Fri, 9 May 2014 14:22:10 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

    http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

  • 504 | DIANE COLE AHL

    ulation living in the liberties rose from 27 percent in 1560 to 46 percent in 600o, and to 62 percent in I640.1 "Pessimistic" historians, whom

    Rappaport accuses of exaggerating the poverty and disorder of Tudor London, are usually referring to the metropolis as a whole, and especially to the proliferating population outside the walls. Their views cannot be refuted by evidence drawn solely from the relatively affluent and well- regulated wards of the City. One might as well confine a sociological study of New York City to the central blocks of Manhattan.

    Rappaport concedes that historians may find his portrait of early modern London too rosy. They should. During the past decade we have had enough attempts to eliminate poverty by statistical manipulation. Nevertheless, despite these serious qualifications, Worlds within Worlds has greatly deepened our understanding of the livery companies of the City, if not of the entire municipal region of London.

    William A. Hunt, Jr. St. Lawrence University

    Art and Politics in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy. Edited by Charles M. Rosenberg (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, I990) 231 pp. $I9.95

    Nine essays and three commentaries in this book explore how civic and sacred power are expressed and commemorated through the language of art. Seven essays consider Italian art and its political connotations. They span from I250, the starting point for Julian Gardner's fine dis- cussion of French patrons of Italian art, to 1513, when Pope Leo X's spectacular ceremony honoring the foundation of Rome was celebrated on the Campidoglio, as Charles Stinger evocatively recounts. The chap- ters encompass a wide rage of media, from painting, sculpture, and processional ephemera, to the classicizing medallions commissioned in fifteenth-century Naples, the propagandistic character of which is elu- cidated well by Joanna Woods-Marsden.

    In a welcome departure from the usual focus on Renaissance Flor- ence, these essays consider art in Venice, Naples, Rome, northern Italy, and Orvieto, among other locales. All discuss patronage, an area espe- cially well treated in Debra Pincus' essay on Andrea Dandolo's com- missions for San Marco. Sacred iconography and its political associations are interpreted imaginatively by Richard Trexler, Jonathan Riess, and Rona Goffen. They respectively reassess North Italian magi art, Luca Signorelli's frescoes in Orvieto's Cappella di San Brixio, and several of Giovanni Bellini's paintings.

    The two essays that are not art-historical in nature support the book's theme of politics and power relationships. Joseph Berrigan eval-

    504 | DIANE COLE AHL

    ulation living in the liberties rose from 27 percent in 1560 to 46 percent in 600o, and to 62 percent in I640.1 "Pessimistic" historians, whom

    Rappaport accuses of exaggerating the poverty and disorder of Tudor London, are usually referring to the metropolis as a whole, and especially to the proliferating population outside the walls. Their views cannot be refuted by evidence drawn solely from the relatively affluent and well- regulated wards of the City. One might as well confine a sociological study of New York City to the central blocks of Manhattan.

    Rappaport concedes that historians may find his portrait of early modern London too rosy. They should. During the past decade we have had enough attempts to eliminate poverty by statistical manipulation. Nevertheless, despite these serious qualifications, Worlds within Worlds has greatly deepened our understanding of the livery companies of the City, if not of the entire municipal region of London.

    William A. Hunt, Jr. St. Lawrence University

    Art and Politics in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy. Edited by Charles M. Rosenberg (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, I990) 231 pp. $I9.95

    Nine essays and three commentaries in this book explore how civic and sacred power are expressed and commemorated through the language of art. Seven essays consider Italian art and its political connotations. They span from I250, the starting point for Julian Gardner's fine dis- cussion of French patrons of Italian art, to 1513, when Pope Leo X's spectacular ceremony honoring the foundation of Rome was celebrated on the Campidoglio, as Charles Stinger evocatively recounts. The chap- ters encompass a wide rage of media, from painting, sculpture, and processional ephemera, to the classicizing medallions commissioned in fifteenth-century Naples, the propag...