Chaucer's London, By AR Myers

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The Independent Culture

Though "a place of dirt and violence", 14th-century London had "not yet lost a sense of community". Myers's lively panorama includes the fashionable shopping centre and take-away food joints. Wrongdoing also has a timeless quality.

John Penrose was found guilty of selling "unsound and unwholesome" wine. We might consider reviving his punishment: he was forced to drink a draught and the rest was poured over his head. More serious criminals ended up at Tyburn, now Marble Arch, where large trees provided a natural gallows.

Another indication of London's ceaseless evolution can be found in the statement that Billingsgate to the west of the Tower "was... then as now the wholesale fish wharf and market". That was true in 1972 when this book first appeared, but it moved to Canary Wharf in 1982.