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City and Suburbs:London 1400-1700

Citation: Davies, Matthew (2014) City and Suburbs:London 1400-1700. In: Evolução da Paisagem Urbana: Cidade e Periferia. Evolução Da Paisagem Urbana . CITCEM – Centro de Investigação Transdisciplinar «Cultura, Espaço e Memória», University of Minho, Portugal, Braga, Portugal, pp. 205-228. ISBN 978-989-8612-09-0

Matthew Davies City and Suburbs.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

London’s physical and demographic expansion between 1500 and 1700 was dramatic. The population of the city and its suburbs grew from about 50,000 to almost half a million inhabitants. Almost all this increase was in the suburbs, particularly to the west, north and east of the walled city. These developments raise important questions about their effects upon the city’s economy, population and the physical environment, especially in the expanding suburbs. The purpose of this paper is to examine the suburban growth of London, first of all setting out some of the main characteristics of this growth in the early modern period. Next the paper will draw on the results of some major research projects carried out by the Centre for Metropolitan History. These have integrated a range of longitudinal and cross-sectional sources, which survive in abundance for early modern London. These enable detailed ‘micro-histories’ to be written of individual properties and their occupants in sample areas of the city, which provide insights into themes such as household size, the physical size and layout of houses, and the changing urban landscape. The paper presents some conclusions arising from the research into the eastern area of Aldgate, which grew very dramatically in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There was considerable demand for housing, and multiple occupancy was common and often achieved through the physical division of houses. As the area became built up, patterns can be seen in the development of gardens behind main street frontages into alley ways and courts, around which new tenements were constructed. Most of this was uncoordinated and re-use of older structures was common. On the other hand, the differences between the suburbs and the central parishes should not be over stated.

Creators: Davies, Matthew ( and
Related URLs:
Subjects: History
Keywords: London, Late Medieval, Early Modern, city and suburbs, urban landscape.
Divisions: Centre for Metropolitan History
  • 1 September 2014 (published)
  • 1 July 2014 (accepted)


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