Imaginary Numbers: City, Crowd, Theater

  • Ian Munro
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


The advent of the crowded city, and the significance with which it was invested, is best seen in the initial attempt to eradicate it: Elizabeth’s 1580 proclamation against new building or subdividing of houses in London and its environs. This was the first official response to the population crisis of the early modern metropolis, and it begins with an aptly panoramic imagining of “the state of the city”

The Queen’s Majesty, perceiving the state of the city of London (being anciently termed her chamber) and the suburbs and confines thereof to increase daily by excess of people to inhabit in the same in such ample sort as thereby many inconveniences are seen already, but many greater of necessity like to follow… where there are such great multitudes of people brought to inhabit in small rooms (whereof a great part are seen very poor, yea, such as must live of begging or by worse means, and they heaped up together, and in a sort smothered with many families of children and servants in one house or small tenement)… Her majesty … doth charge and straightly command all manner of persons of what quality soever they be, to desist and forbear from any new building of any house or tenement within three miles from any of the gates of the said city of London, to serve for habitation or lodging for any person where no former house hath been known to have been in the memory of such as are now living, and also to forbear from letting or setting or suffering any more families than one only to be placed or to inhabit from henceforth in any house that heretofore hath been inhabited.1


Urban Space Official Response Collective Violence Spatial Practice Building Proclamation 
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© Ian Munro 2005

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  • Ian Munro

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