As of this afternoon, I'm an experience host on Airbnb.
I KNOW. HOW COOL RIGHT?
But no, seriously, as if I didn't do enough work already as it is, I'm dedicating a couple of hours a weekl to being a tour guide around the City of London, passing on my knowledge of London Coffeehouse history. Since I'll be doing that soon, I thought it would be a good time to talk to you a little bit more about the history of this wonderful type of business. As many of you already know, I wrote my dissertation on the London coffeehouses of the 17th and 18th centuries, but what many of you may not know is thaty I focused it entirely on the above heading. Yep, how it contributed to the growth and development of a modern society. Oh how funky..!
No, seriously, this stuff is super interesting for the fact hardly anyone has actually learned about their history. The London coffeehouses were pretty much pivotal towards the development of a modern society, paving the way for many values we still hold nowadays. You could even argue that without these old London Coffeehouses, we would be nowhere as advanced as a society as we are now.
The most important reason for this is primarily down to the majority of middle-class-and-up people moving away from consuming obscene amounts of alcohol, and simply replacing these consumption habits with coffee instead. In the turn of the 18th century, where there was now more than 2000 coffeehouses available, there was a large shift towards a sober population, rather than the traditionally drunken one. People were switching their consumption habits from the depressant of alcohol, to the stimulant that was coffee. People's minds were now not only able to think in a sober manner, but they were going at hyperdrive. This definitely contributed towards the ability for people to come up with new ideas, arguments and theories that their clouded drunken brain could not have mustered up.
Closely tied into this, is the concept of the 'Penny Universities'. These also helped society to modernise and develop through the easier to access spaces where intellectual thoughts could be discussed and debated. Alongside this, access to newspapers and tabloid pieces were readily available to be read aloud, allowing people who had otherwise been secluded from this before were now involved, and could contribute their thoughts to the matter. This lead to the widespread development of the intellectually stimulated middle class, as well as the appropriate intellectual groups forming and meeting as a result, such as the Royal Society.
Another area to consider is the widespread rebellion from the Monarch's demands, and how the population for the most simply ignored his wishes, or rallied against them (when involving the coffeehouses, at least)! Charles II strongly disliked the idea of the coffeehouses, as he thought they were a place where political strife and scheming could occur. His solution to this was to issue a royal proclamation banning all coffeehouses, but this did not go down well with the general population - obviously chemically fixated on the product by this point..! The fact that the population did not willingly accept the banning from the King shows that he did not hold as much power as the Monarch did previously. People were now more interested in the idea of politics and intellectual conversation, rather than the Divine Monarchy and religion.
Although not an incredibly huge topic to cover in this blog post, women did feature slightly in the development of society during this period. Women were in fact able to work in the coffeehouses behind the bar, accepting the pennies from guests - a position higher up than the servant boys on the floor. By being a part of the front of house, the position of women began to show an emerging power and prominence, contributing towards the development of the women's rights movement(s). For example, the wonderful Moll King (who I've already spoken about on another blog post - go look her up), was an exceptional woman who not only worked in a coffeehouse, but owned the place too. Although previously under dual ownership from both herself and her husband, once he passed away she took full ownership. Needless to say she absolutely smashed it, and proved to the world that a woman could take over a business and run it well, if not better, than their male counterpart.
So there you have it: a well, not so brief detailing of the London Coffeehouses, and how they've contributed towards the development of a modern society. Watch out for my book coming out at the end of the year about this, and my children's book landing (fingers crossed) for summer. How exciting! I just want to spread the word as much as possible about the amazingly interesting history that is the London Coffeehouses.
In conclusion, it is easier to understand that the shift in the type of drugs the population were consuming was the highest contributor to the reason why the emergence of these London Coffeehouses contributed greatly to a modern society. However, the other areas of development should not be overlooked, as something as amazing as women working inside the bar should definitely be considered, as this was such a rare occurrence at the times of these coffeehouses being established. It always makes me wonder what life would be like if the coffeehouses had not declined, but simply kept going - where would we be as a society now?
Until next time, lovelies. x