Sunday, November 07, 2010

Early Modern London Re-visioned

Received notice of an exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery. London’s Water: 400 Years of the New River, which, they note, "a display charting the history of the river and the New River Company’s role in supplying water to the capital."

The work to the right, new to me, is an anonymous work titled "A Prospect of the City from the North, c.1730."  (The link to the City of London's Collage provides a larger image and a fuller description.)

Drinking as Enlightenment?

  • People often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His tour takes us from the “liquid networks” of London’s coffee houses to Charles Darwin’s long, slow hunch to today’s high-velocity web. ("Where good ideas come from: Steven Johnson"; TEDGlobal, July 2010, Oxford, 17:46)
This podcast (blog talk?) begins in early modern England, as all digital humanities should I suppose.  Dr. Johnson (not that one) makes a couple of suspect claims.  First, the Oxford coffeehouse probably dates from 1654 not 1651 (as most claim); and the first coffeehouse in the British Isles was probably in London about the same time [Brian Cowan, "Publicity and Privacy in the History of the British Coffeehouse," History Compass 5, 4 (June 2007): 1180–213]. Second, coffeehouses (like taverns) often had private rooms and/or high-backed boxes as well as a public table(s) [John Barrell, “Coffee-House Politicians,” JBS 43, 2 (2004): 206-32].  So we cannot state that coffeehouses always privileged openness ("connecting) over proprietariness ("property").  The talk does point to the importance of examining spaces, sociability, and networks, however.  Then and now.

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