chapter  14
24 Pages

‘Scientifi c’ instruments and networks of craft and commerce in early modern London

ByALEXI BAKER

During the early modern period, London dominated the British and European trades in optical, mathematical, and philosophical instruments. This was in large part due to the socioeconomic nature of the ever-expanding capital itself. London was the most populous metropolis in western Europe by the beginning of the eighteenth century, with perhaps 575,000 inhabitants, and the most populous in all of Europe by the middle of the century after an increase of at least 100,000 people. Perhaps one in ten English and Welsh men lived there, as compared with one in forty Frenchmen living in Paris. 1 This provided a growing labour force and consumer base for the instrument trade. The constant arrival of foreign immigrants – most notably the French Huguenots and their descendants – also contributed new skills, fashions, and retail and wholesale connections.