London During Its Launch to Greatness


In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries London, England was the world’s greatest city. Even today it ranks in the top ten.

“London and the 17th Century: The Making of the World’s Greatest City,” by Margarette Lincoln examines London’s most formative years; between the death of Queen Elizabeth I and the reign of King William III. This century positioned London to dominate the world.

It was a consequential period.  London had a population of 200,000 in 1600, almost tripling to about 570,000 in 1700. Yet the period was important for more than just population growth.  This book covers the era of the Gunpowder Plot, the English Civil War, the Great Plague and Great Fire, the Restoration, the Dutch Wars and Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Lincoln also tells of the various ways in which London grew, and of how it changed the world. London (with a lot of arm-twisting by James I) financed much of the Protestant settlement of Ulster, including the establishment of Londonderry. It also helped establish many of the markers of the modern world.

The Royal Society molded modern science. Modern insurance was born in London. While banking and joint-stock companies predated the seventeenth century, seventeenth century London saw birth of the forms in which they exist today. London’s printing and literary industry of that century was copied throughout the world. London became a maritime and shipbuilding powerhouse during these years, establishing commercial empires that endured for centuries.

Lincoln captures all of this.  She also presents the vast array of characters present in London during that century. James I, Charles I and II, Oliver Cromwell, and William and Mary of Orange take their places on this stage. But Lincoln includes folks like Shakespeare, Bacon, Newton, and Pepys who shaped history in other ways.  She brings the people who inhabited London to life, showing how conditions evolved between 1603 and 1697.

She also charts the physical growth of the city. She shows how it expanded beyond the walled city of 1600 (today’s “Square Mile” or City of London) to absorbed the independent city of Westminster, and add districts on both sides of the Thames.

“London and the 17th Century” is a book worth reading, not just because of the period it covers. It is also an entertaining and informative story. Lincoln provides readers with an appreciation with the contributions seventeenth century London made to the world as it exists today.

“London and the 17th Century: The Making of the World’s Greatest City,” by Margarette Lincoln, Yale University Press, 2021, 384 pages, $32.50 (Harcover) $15.10 (Ebook)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is

Published in History
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  1. DaveSchmidt Coolidge

    I love the review.  Does it include many maps? 

    • #1
  2. Goldgeller Member

    Great review! Sounds like an interesting book.

    • #2
  3. Seawriter Contributor

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    I love the review. Does it include many maps?

    It has two maps at the front. One showing London in 1600 and a second of the city in 1700 showing its growth.

    • #3