Noise and stench in Olde England

In: Uncategorized

7 Apr 2007

Emily Cockayne’s Hubbub: Filth, Noise and Stench in England, 1600-1770 (Yale UP) gives a graphic view of what English streets were like before the Industrial Revolution, according an article in Literary Review by Christopher Hart:

“The personal liberty of every freeborn Englishman and woman to spit, dump and defecate meant considerable misery for everyone. In the streets of London you would stumble over ‘the disagreeable Objects of bleeding Heads, Entrails of Beasts, Offals, raw Hides, and the Kennels flowing with Blood and Nastiness’. I never knew that ‘Mount Pleasant’, near Gray’s Inn, was actually a bitterly ironic name for a huge man-made heap of the most nauseous offal and ordure. It is now, of course, home to the Guardian newspaper.”

It should complement other books I have previously cited to help show how living conditions have improved enormously over the years. These include Judith Flanders’ Consuming Passions (Harper Press) on how few consumer goods we used to have (see 14 August 2006 post) and Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization (Oxford UP 1997) on how murder was rife before modern times (see 30 July 2006 post).

Comment Form