The 'perpetual fair'

Gender, disorder, and urban amusement in eighteenth-century London

By Anne Wohlcke

The 'perpetual fair'


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9287-3
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: December 2015
  • BIC Category: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies, Society & social sciences / Gender studies, gender groups, Humanities / Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900, History & Archaeology, General & world history, European history, c 1500 onwards to present day, 18th century, c 1700 to c 1799, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Georgian Era (1714-1837), Geography, History
  • Series: Gender in History


Each summer, a 'perpetual fair' plagued eighteenth-century London, a city in transition overrun by a burgeoning population. City officials attempted to control disorderly urban amusement according to their own gendered understandings of order and morality. Frequently derided as locations of dangerous femininity disrupting masculine commerce, fairs withstood regulation attempts. Fairs were important in the lives of ordinary Londoners as sites of women's work, sociability, and local and national identity formation. Rarely studied as vital to London's modernisation, urban fairs are a microcosm of London's transforming society, demonstrating how metropolitan changes were popularly contested. Now available in paperback, this study contributes to our understanding of popular culture and modernisation in Britain during the formative years of its global empire.

Fascinating examples drawn from literary and visual culture make this an engaging study for scholars and students of late Stuart and early Georgian Britain, urban and gender history, World's Fairs and cultural studies.


'Wohlcke's book provides not only a new history of London's fairs but also makes a valuable contribution to the historiography of women's work and the debates on gender and the city. It is a book well worth reading.'
Louise Falcini, The English Historical Review, March 2016


Introduction: Making a mannered metropolis and taming the 'perpetual fair'
1. 'London's Mart': the crowds and culture of eighteenth-century London
2. 'Heroick informers' and London spies: religion, politeness and reforming impulses in late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century London
3. Regulation and resistance: wayward apprentices and other 'evil disposed persons' at London's fairs
4. 'Dirty Molly' and 'the greasier Kate': the feminine threat to urban order
5. Locating the fair sex at work
6. Clocks, monsters, and drolls: gender, race, nation, and the amusements of London fairs


Anne Wohlcke is Associate Professor of History at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

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