The main theme of Open City: London, 1500–1700 was the growth, or opening, of London geographically, commercially, and socially in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This period was chosen as one of unusually dramatic urban change, which curators Kathleen Lynch and Betsy Walsh attributed to political change, religious upheaval, and rising consumer consumption. Their approach was to make their case by demonstrating transitions in three public arenas: religious practice, theater, and the market.

Between 1500 and 1700 London’s population grew tenfold, according to the introductory wall label. Accommodating the new population required expansion. Help came from the turn away from the Roman Catholic Church to the Church of England. This resulted in the dissolution...

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