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The space of print and printed spaces in restoration London 1660-1685 Monteyne, Joseph Robert

Abstract

In his evocative account of walking through Restoration London, the seventeenth-century diarist Samuel Pepys conveys a vibrant city comprised of movement, exchange, and conflict. We follow Pepys, for example, into the coffee-house on his insatiable search for news and political argument. Within urban space he is equally persistent, noting the ritual demarcation of urban boundaries at moments of tension between London and the Crown, or describing how the city's spaces were alarmingly transformed by the presence of disease. This is hardly the London imagined by scholars of the Restoration, who have characterized this historical moment of the return of Charles II and restoration of monarchical government to England as a time of concord after the violent struggles resulting in civil war at mid-century. It is telling that one of the first strategies adopted by Charles IPs government to stabilize a volatile situation in London was to assert control over print. At this moment, though, print culture served to open up urban space in new ways, becoming a mode of opportunity for individuals like Pepys. My dissertation considers precisely the interrelation between these spaces and forms of print. Like Pepys, my thesis journeys through the city, stopping at the Restoration coffee-house. These spaces of congregation, where print was displayed and purchased, appeared in significant numbers around the Royal Exchange after 1660. The coffee-house has been given mythic proportions in the twentieth century as the foundation of a modern public sphere. However, as this thesis will show, instead of producing an abstract and universal realm of public opinion, the coffee-house was an actual space formed through contestation, and through a struggle taking place between an older form of subjectivity and a newer urban culture. Another site of urban contestation shaped through print was the street processions staged by Whigs during the Exclusion Crisis, a moment of increased City and Crown tensions. Within these political struggles, the unexpected also had its part to play. The crisis brought on by bubonic plague in 1665 generated prints mediating all kinds of conflicts, but especially the social practices of flight and quarantine. The sudden destruction of the city within the walls by fire in 1666 was met by mapping and picturing the ruins that struggled to account for the void in the urban centre. My dissertation concludes with a series of unique prints which represent an ephemeral city built on the in-between space of the frozen Thames. This unexpected suspension of the everyday rhythms of London led to its festive re-imagining. In conclusion, I address the significance of the location of both print and the coffeehouse at the very centre of this urban space.

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