Life in the suburbs: health, domesticity and status in early modern London

Project Summary

This project is hosted by: Institute of Historical Research

Research interests:
Local Government
Europe, Europe
Project period:
02-Jun-2008 - 31-May-2011
Project summary:

This project investigates the character and development of London’s eastern suburb by examining the life of the inhabitants of the extra-mural parishes of St Botolph Aldgate and Holy Trinity Minories from c.1550-c.1700. Covering just under 80 acres running south from the parish of St Botolph Bishopsgate to the Thames, this area experienced a population explosion during the early modern period, from c.3,500 inhabitants in 1540, over 11,000 by 1650, to nearly 20,000 by 1700. The area offers a population with a unique range of social and economic experiences which allow the greatest possible scope for studying suburban living in early modern London. Moreover, it also offers an unprecedented array of sources, including parish registers, records of poor relief, numerous taxation and household listings, and the observations of the parish clerks of St Botolph.
Project aims

The project has three main aims. The first involves a full family reconstitution and demographic analysis of the area’s parish registers - the largest reconstitution yet attempted from English registers. Relevant issues here are seasonality of mortality across the period, and the impact of maternal feeding practices. The second area of research involves study of the status, wealth and arrangement of the domestic units within the two parishes. Major themes here concern the levels of poverty and overseas immigration, the impact of London’s growth on existing social structures and whether communities of wealth congregated in different areas of the suburb. Finally, the third project strand concerns the topographical development of the area, specifically the expansion of its housing stock. Subjects of interest here include the residence patterns and spatial characteristics of the population, variables such as housing quality and amenity, and rental values. It is also one of the express purposes of the project to integrate what are often seen as distinct methodologies and to fully utilise recent developments in historical mapping techniques. By so-doing, these analyses will inform and underpin large-scale explanations of the development of the early modern metropolis and its role in the ‘modernisation’ of English society.

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Management Details

Lead researcher & project contact:

Name Position Institute Organisation Contact
Dr Matthew Davies Director, Centre for Metropolitan History and Reader in London History IHR SAS



Name Position Institute Organisation Contact
Mr Philip Baker Research Officer, Centre for Metropolitan History IHR SAS
Dr Mark Latham Research Officer IHR


Other collaborative organisations:

Name URL Contact
Birkbeck, University of London
Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure



Funder Grant type Award
The Economic and Social Research Council Grant Reference: RES-062-23-1260 £733,779.61