Unruliness and Improvement



The aim of this chapter is to locate some salient art forms of late Georgian London within the context of a ‘modernising’ metropolis. To do so, I focus thematically on what, from the viewpoint of the upper ranks and the middling sort, were the benefits and the unwelcome by-products of the commercial prosperity that was destabilising their society. Optimism, encouraged by technological advances and decades of economic expansion, was evident in rising consumer expectations and pride in the capital’s civic amenities. Weighing against this, however, were trepidation about the levelling tendencies inherent in commercialised leisure and market-mediated consumption, and justified fears of popular insurgence in the context of mass migration and political unrest. Proceeding chronologically, I first examine the insubordination associated with different kinds of unregulated public assembly and the anxieties associated with and projected onto urban crowds. Then I analyse the emergence of the panorama of the 1790s, which, I argue, epitomised the links between technology and entrepreneurial capitalism. Finally, I consider topographical prints which reflected the architectural remodelling of the West End in the Regency period and the reformation of manners negotiated on the city streets.


Regent Street Entrepreneurial Capitalism Street Trader Consumer Pleasure Admission Charge 
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© Alan David Robinson 2004

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