Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Talking Heads / Housing Coffee

Perhaps because of the publication Brian Cowan, The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse (Yale University Press, 2005); Markman Ellis, The Coffee House: A Cultural History (Phoenix, 2005), etc., but more probably because of the expansion of blogs (and the decline of newspapers) had everyone scrambling back to an earlier age and technology of communication shift (from newsbooks to newspapers, from taverns to coffeehouses).  In any case, the last five years have seen numerous online musings:  Coffee-houses vs. Salons; a review of Cowan considering the Coffeehouse Mob; a discussion of the public sphere From the Coffee House to the World Wide Web (though I am unsure how the image Hogarth's Treating fits, given that that is clearly a tavern/private dining room); Notes on Coffee (though perhaps it should be titled Notes on Habermas); a long article "Coffee and Civilization," by Scott Horton (Harper's, August 20, 2007); and recently "Coffee Society."

The concluding chapter of Bucholz and Key, Early Modern England discusses coffee-houses quite a bit, in relation to London's mercantile and insurance developments, aristocratic sociability, and, of course, the nascent public sphere. I worry whether coffeehouses can be all things to all people; but they certainly were a prominent early modern feature.  (We don't use the picture at left in Early Modern England or Sources and Debates, though I believe it is circa 1705.)  For more on coffeehouses and modernity, see Drinking as Enlightenment? (below).  To resist the Whiggish idea that coffeehouses developed everything new about the modern public sphere, see Philip Withington, Society in Early Modern England (Polity Press, 2010), 235, where everything "associated with the Enlightenment coffeehouse had been promulgated through the council chambers and parish vestries of England for the previous one hundred years"!

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