The first complete history of Southwark, London’s stubbornly independent community over the Thames
Southwark’s fortunes have always been tied to those of the City of London across the river. But from its founding in Roman times through to flourishing in the medieval era, the Borough has always fiercely asserted its independence. A place of licence, largely free of the City’s jurisdiction, Southwark became a constant thorn in London’s side: an administrative anachronism, a commercial rival, and an asylum for undesirable industries and residents.
In this remarkable history of London’s liberty beyond the bridge, Margaret Willes narrates the life and times of the people of Southwark, capturing the Borough’s anarchic spirit of revelry. Populated by a potent mix of talented immigrants, religious dissenters, theatrical folk, brewers, and sex workers, Southwark often escaped urban jurisdiction—giving it an atmosphere of danger, misrule, and artistic freedom. Tracing Southwark’s history from its Roman foundation to its present popularity as a place to visit, through Chaucer, to Shakespeare, and on to Dickens, Willes offers an indispensable exploration of the City’s unacknowledged mirror image.