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A Visitor's Guide to Shakespeare's London (Paperback)

London Tudors and Stuarts

By David Thomas
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 174
ISBN: 9781473825543
Published: 6th April 2016

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A fresh and colourful look at Shakespeare’s London published on the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. Readers can explore the streets of Shakespeare’s London and see the sights he saw, while learning how people ate, drank, misbehaved and had fun.

You will discover what it was like to be a tourist in the sixteenth century from the voices of people who came to London during Shakespeare’s day. You will travel with them to the major tourist sights and will learn how to get about, where to stay and what to eat and drink. You will visit the royal palaces, London’s famous gardens, the Tower of London and Old St Paul’s Cathedral. You will discover the pleasure of London’s theatres, the sports people played and the shopping they enjoyed. As now, London was famous as a shopping destination. But beware, London is full of people who will pick your pockets or trick you out of your money and you are constantly at risk from the plague or even the polluted water supply.

Most of the London Shakespeare knew has been destroyed by fire, war and developers, but a surprising number of buildings and places which he knew still survive. The book contains guided tours which show you to sample the atmosphere and see the sights which Tudor tourists enjoyed.

This title will appeal to Shakespeare lovers, social history fans, fiction and drama lovers, students and anyone with an interest in this fascinating era of London’s history.

As featured in

Antiques Diary, November-December 2016

David Thomas’ published Shakespeare’s London to coincide with the 400th anniversary since his death, to allow readers and tourists the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. What makes this book so interesting, is that it has not been written just for those who love Shakespeare’s works, but those who are interested in the social history of London as well as those who have an interest in Elizabethan era.

What becomes clear throughout the text is that Shakespeare’s London, though thoroughly modern then, was still very much a medieval city, whose water supply was terrible and would remain so for centuries after. At the same time, London was often overwhelmed by outbreaks of diseases as well as the plague, and medicine at best was rudimentary. The people of London loved their sports, especially those of the barbaric variety, such as bear baiting, cock fighting and if really bored go along to a public execution, hanging or beheading as well as burning, plenty to choose from.

David Thomas takes the reader and the tourist by the hand, but first of all he helps you to get your bearings, so that you are able to find the places of interest. Addressed to the reader as if in the time of Shakespeare, he does advise to visit London in winter when much healthier especially as the plague does not rear its head until the summer months, I will bear that in mind next time I get off the train at Euston.

Taking us eating, drinking and shopping we are advised that breakfast is being a small meal, many people did not bother with, as now, and not served at court at all. Well one thing that would confuse the modern tourist is that in Shakespearean London, the main meal of the day was served at 11am, but only if you were a nobleman, gentleman or a scholar. For us peasants, sorry tourists, we could eat at midday. All Lords and gentleman had supper at 5pm which once again us mere peasants would eat an hour later.

As David Thomas guides us through London we are guided to where the best places to shop were and what items you would be able to purchase as well as street vendors and fairs. He also shows us what were considered the must-sees of the day along with other attractions that tourist would be interested in seeing. We are also shown what was taken as entertainment of the day, especially music and dancing as well as the theatres of the time.

One of the most interesting chapters in the book covers the buildings that have managed to survive the mists of time, the Great Fire, the blitz and worse town planners. There are a number of buildings that have managed to survive and they are listed and where known the time of the openings to the public.

David Thomas has written an engaging book on Shakespeare’s London going back to his time and imagining the time for the reader. Being able to access some of the buildings today with an explanation of their history is excellent. This really is an engaging read, taking the reader back in time and brings them up to date.

Freelancer, Paul Diggett

'A fascinating insight into Tudor London.'
As reviewed in

Hertfordshire Life

William Shakespeare would be pilloried in the tabloid press today; he seems to have made a habit of avoiding paying his taxes, and in 1599 the authorities came after him.

That is just one of the fascinating pieces of information about the Bard of Stratford contained in David Thomas's wonderful book, 'A Visitor's Guide to Shakespeare's London'. Thomas brings to life the colourful, often turbulent, world of London at the turn of the 17th century in a readable, enjoyable style.


Though the title might lead you to think that the book is a travel guide to Shakespearian attractions in modern London, it is actually much more. It is a treasure trove of historical detail, covering every facet of daily life in Shakespeare's London in an entertaining style.

I have a lot of books on London travel and history; they take up an entire shelf on my office bookshelf. A Visitors Guide to Shakespeare's London is easily one of the most entertaining, detailed, and enjoyable books on historic London that I have ever read. It deserves a place on your bookshelf too.

Well done Mr Thomas.

Britain Express

Published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare (which I personally believe is simply an excuse to celebrate the works of the world's greatest literary giant. David Thomas's book looks at life in London at the time Shakespeare actually lived and wrote. Absolutely fascinating - visitors to London will look at the city in a new light, and people who have never been there may well think again before actually visiting - only joking! This is an absolutely superb travel book with a subtle difference. Blackadder's London comes to life in this brilliant book...

Books Monthly, May 2016 - Paul Norman
 David Thomas

About David Thomas

David Thomas is the former Director of Technology at the National Archives, where he was responsible for systems, the online catalogue, the website and the preservation of digital records. He has a long-standing interest in crime, imprisonment and poverty and has written extensively on these topics for family history magazines. He is the author of Beggars Cheats and Forgers: A History of Frauds Through the Ages (Pen & Sword, 2014).

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