The birth of modern London

By Elizabeth Mckellar

The birth of modern London

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5864-2
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: February 2021
  • BIC Category: History, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Urban, HISTORY / Social History, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Local History, Humanities / History
  • Series: Studies in Design and Material Culture


The period 1660-1720 saw the foundation of modern London. The city was transformed post-Fire from a tight warren of medieval timber-framed buildings into a vastly expanded, regularised landscape of brick houses laid out in squares and spacious streets. This book examines the building boom and the speculative developers who created that landscape. It offers a wealth of new information on their working practices, the role of craftsmen and the design thinking which led to the creation of a new prototype for English housing.

While concentrating on the mass-produced houses of 'the middling sort', which saw the adoption of classicism on a large scale in this country for the first time, the book reveals that the 'new city' maintained a surprising degree of continuity with existing patterns of urban use and traditional architecture. It presents the late-seventeenth and the early eighteenth century as a distinct phase in London's architectural development and offers a radical reinterpretations of the adoption of Renaissance styles and ideas at the level of the everyday, challenging conventional interpretations of their use and reception in this country.


'I am enormously impressed by the book's important argument about the interpretation of seventeenth-century architecture. It will transform people's attitudes to the subject, not only of the domestic architecture of late seventeenth-century London, but also in terms of more general perspectives on seventeeth- and eighteenth-century architectural history.' - Charles Saumarez Smith, Director of The National Portrait Gallery


Introduction: Constructing Classicism: architecture in an age of commerce
Part I: The development of the city
1 Surveying the scene: conflicting perspectives on the modern city
2 The developers: noble landlords and greedy speculators
3 Creating the city: the 'mad intemperance ... of building'
4 Constructing the city: the standardization of production
5 The builders: honest artisans and crafty contractors
Part II: The design of the city
6 Conceiving the city I: design through drawing
7 Conceiving the city II: books and alternative design methods
8 Housing the city: tradition and innovation in the urban terrace
9 Open spaces in the city: from fields to squares and gardens


Elizabeth McKellar is Emerita Professor of Art History at the Open University and President of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain

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