Cover image for Elizabeth's London : everyday life in Elizabethan London
Elizabeth's London : everyday life in Elizabethan London
Picard, Liza, 1927-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2004.

Physical Description:
xxiv, 342 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA680 .P53 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DA680 .P53 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Liza Picard immerses her readers in the spectacular details of daily life in the London of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603). Beginning with the River Thames, she examines the city on the north bank, still largely confined within the old Roman walls. The wealthy lived in mansions upriver, and the royal palaces were even farther up at Westminster. On the south bank, theaters and spectacles drew the crowds, and Southwark and Bermondsey were bustling with trade. Picard examines the streets and the traffic in them; she surveys building methods and shows us the decor of the rich and the not-so-rich. Her account overflows with particulars of domestic life, right down to what was likely to be growing in London gardens.
Picard then turns her eye to the Londoners themselves, many of whom were afflicted by the plague, smallpox, and other diseases. The diagnosis was frequently bizarre and the treatment could do more harm than good. But there was comfort to be had in simple, homely pleasures, and cares could be forgotten in a playhouse or the bull-baiting and bear-baiting rings, or watching a good cockfight. The more sober-minded might go to hear a lecture at Gresham College or the latest preacher at Paul's Cross.
Immigrants posed problems for Londoners who, though proud of their nation's religious tolerance, were concerned about the damage these skilled migrants might do to their own livelihoods, despite the dominance of livery companies and their apprentice system. Henry VIII's destruction of the monasteries had caused a crisis in poverty management that was still acute, resulting in begging (with begging licenses ) and a "parochial poor rate" paid by the better-off.
Liza Picard's wonderfully vivid prose enables us to share the satisfaction and delights, as well as the vexations and horrors, of the everyday lives of the denizens of sixteenth-century London.

Author Notes

Liza Picard was born in 1927. She read law at London School of Economics and was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn, but did not practice. She worked in London for many years in the office of the Solicitor of Inland Revenue until she retired in 1987. She now lives in Oxford.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This is the story of what Picard calls ordinary people, Londoners during Queen Elizabeth's reign, 1558 to 1603. Much of the author's monumental research is based on John Stow's Survey of London (1598), William Harrison's Description of England (1587), and diaries kept by people whom she describes as moderately prosperous men. Picard examines life on the Thames, London's main streets, its water supply and sewerage, its buildings and their interiors and furniture, and its gardens and churchyards. But most of the book describes the people: their health, illnesses, medicine, clothes, jewels, cosmetics, food, and drinks. Picard also chronicles their sexual customs, marriage, family life, death, education, and amusements. There are chapters on crime and punishment, the poor and the welfare system, and religion. An appendix explains Elizabethan words and pronunciation; another gives examples of its\b currency, wages, and prices; and there are 45 illustrations. All this amounts to an astonishing book in scope and imagery--certainly one of the most detailed accounts of life in that era ever written. --George Cohen Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Picard's latest historical guided tour, of 16th-century London, entertainingly rounds out her trilogy (with Dr. Johnson's London and Restoration London) revisiting the great city's past. Although Elizabethan London boasts no single great diarist like Samuel Pepys or James Boswell, Picard ably sifts through an enormous variety of records, letters, books and other accounts to re-create the urban expanse. Starting with topography and architecture, Picard takes her readers across the Thames and through the neighborhoods of the emergent metropolis, noting the housing and development boom touched off by Henry VIII's appropriation of papal real estate. Her tour continues through every aspect of Elizabethan life, from clothes and food to family and education, from crime and law to jobs and welfare. In such a wide-ranging scheme, the theater, along with other entertainments, is only one aspect of a flourishing society. Picard's discursive, conversational tone prevents even the topic of the water supply, with its newly engineered pipes, from seeming too dry, and her eye for facts (and factoids) can spot intriguing details in even immigrant census data. Despite the book's comprehensive structure, Picard's impressionistic style leads to the occasional oversight. Her section on religion is comparatively brief (though still interesting) for the era's most important political and social issue. Although she discusses the endemic smallpox, which scarred even the queen, she hardly touches on "the French pox," i.e. syphilis, which had been recently introduced. Nonetheless, this vibrant social history makes the city of five centuries ago seem as alive as today's, if not more. 32 pages of color photos, maps. Agent, Catherine Clark, with Felicity Bryan, U.K. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

List of illustrationsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Prologuep. xviii
Part 1 The Place
Chapter 1 The River
The long ferryp. 6
The legal quays and up-riverp. 8
The river's moodsp. 9
Great occasionsp. 11
Tilt-boats, wherries and watermenp. 13
Flood controlp. 16
Fishingp. 17
The swansp. 18
Chapter 2 The Main Streets, Water Supply and Sewerage
Southwarkp. 20
London Bridgep. 21
The City gatesp. 24
To the northp. 25
The east/west route via Cheapsidep. 26
Thames Streetp. 28
St Paul's/Ludgate/Fleet Streetp. 29
The City to Westminsterp. 29
Road surfacesp. 30
Transportp. 31
Trafficp. 33
Water supplyp. 35
Engineers and quillsp. 38
Refuse disposalp. 40
Public toiletsp. 41
Chapter 3 The Buildings
Timber-frame constructionp. 42
New stone and brick housesp. 47
Survivalsp. 48
Chapter 4 Interiors and Furniture
House movingp. 51
Interior walls and wall coveringsp. 51
Gilt leather and embroideryp. 54
Tapestryp. 55
Wood panellingp. 56
Ceilings and floorsp. 57
Furniturep. 58
Silverp. 66
Chapter 5 Gardens and Open Spaces
Garden designp. 68
The Inns of Courtp. 73
Livery companies and churchyardsp. 74
Gardening techniquesp. 75
Planting plansp. 78
Open spacesp. 82
Part 2 The People
Chapter 6 Health, Illness and Medicine
Expectation of lifep. 89
The Bills of Mortalityp. 90
The Plaguep. 91
Smallpox and other diseasesp. 93
Care of the sickp. 95
Mental illnessp. 95
Diagnosis and treatmentp. 97
Medical theoriesp. 102
The medical establishmentp. 104
Accidents and emergenciesp. 109
Chapter 7 Foreigners
Blackamoors and lascarsp. 110
Foreign touristsp. 111
Immigrantsp. 112
The 1593 Return of Strangersp. 115
Naturalisationp. 119
Tax and other penaltiesp. 119
Social organisationp. 120
Chapter 8 Clothes and Beauty
Ruffsp. 123
Men's dressp. 126
Women's dressp. 131
Childrenp. 134
Colours, fabrics and decorationp. 134
Underwear and nightwearp. 138
Shoes and headgearp. 138
Accessoriesp. 140
Furs and jewelsp. 141
Washing, etc.p. 144
Cosmeticsp. 145
Teethp. 146
Chapter 9 Food and Drink
The marketsp. 148
Other food shopsp. 152
Street sellersp. 152
Fish daysp. 153
Cooking and recipesp. 155
Mealsp. 159
Table mannersp. 161
Drinkp. 165
Eating outp. 168
Chapter 10 Sex, Marriage, Family Life and Death
Sex outside marriagep. 169
Marriagep. 173
Servantsp. 179
Childbirthp. 180
Childhood and mannersp. 184
Death and funeralsp. 186
Chapter 11 Education
The first yearsp. 190
Figuresp. 191
Schoolsp. 194
Christ's Hospitalp. 199
Apprenticeshipp. 202
The Inns of Courtp. 205
Further educationp. 208
Private tuition and the foreign tourp. 208
Chapter 12 Amusements
Home entertainmentp. 212
Free showsp. 217
Bear baiting, bull baiting and cock fightingp. 219
Theatre-goingp. 221
Sportp. 225
The lotteryp. 226
Inns and tavernsp. 227
Recreational drugsp. 228
Chapter 13 Networks and Boxes
The livery companiesp. 230
Parishesp. 240
Wardsp. 202
Servitors and retainersp. 244
Chapter 14 Crime, Punishment and the Law
The underworldp. 246
Criminal law enforcementp. 247
Minor offencesp. 248
More serious punishmentsp. 249
The civil lawp. 252
Statutes, proclamations and the Custom of Londonp. 255
Chapter 15 The Poor
The welfare systemp. 257
Emergencies and single paymentsp. 259
Begging licencesp. 261
Private charitiesp. 262
The sick poorp. 263
Chapter 16 Religion, Superstition, Witchcraft and Magic
The Elizabethan religious settlementp. 271
Dissidentsp. 273
Continuityp. 275
The sermons at Paul's Crossp. 275
Superstitionp. 277
Witchcraft and magicp. 278
Epiloguep. 280
Appendix I Words and Pronunciationp. 282
Appendix II Currency, Wages and Pricesp. 285
Appendix III An Elizabethan Invoicep. 288
Notesp. 290
Indexp. 329