In the 16th & 17th centuries, “nightwalking” was a transgressive act in a city still on the brink of total nighttime illumination, but with complex implications depending on your social status.
Matthew Beaumont | Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London | Verso | March 2015 | 37 minutes (10,129 words)
Below is a chapter excerpted from Nightwalking, by Matthew Beaumont, as recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky. In this excerpt, Beaumont describes the complex and transgressive act of nightwalking in London during the 16th & 17th centuries. He paints a vivid picture of the city at night and explains what nightwalking revealed about class, status, and the political and religious leanings of those who practiced it. The plight of the jobless and homeless poor in this era, which also witnessed the birth of capitalism, are dishearteningly familiar today.
Beaumont draws on a variety of compelling sources, which have been linked to when possible, such as Beware the Cat, a puzzling English proto-novel that features a man who attains cat-like superpowers, The Wandring Whore and The Wandring Whore Continued, and A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursetors, Vulgarly Called Vagabonds, which defines, among other things, the 24 types of vagabond.Continue reading “Vagabonds, Crafty Bauds, and the Loyal Huzza: A History of London at Night”