Friday, January 1, 2010

London According To Luisa de Carvajal

From the Times (Sept 2008):
They are the kind of observations that have occurred to thousands of visitors to London as they dash off a few words to the folks back home: London is a city of soaring costs, endless rain, poor food and weekend rowdiness.

Yet Luisa de Carvajal's description of life in the capital has come to light more than 400 years after she jotted down her thoughts for friends and relatives in Spain and Flanders.

Having lain in a Madrid convent, the notes have been translated into English for the first time by Glyn Redworth, a senior lecturer in history at the University of Manchester.

In 150 letters, Carvajal, who died in 1614 aged 48, paints an image of England in the 17th century with astonishing attention to detail. Her descriptions are a treasure trove for historians of Britain's social, religious and economic past.

Carvajal, a noblewoman who was brought to England in 1605 by English Jesuits, risked her life in the pursuit of martyrdom for the Roman Catholic cause. She distributed banned books, provided a hiding place for priests, and secretly exhumed the body parts of martyrs to send as relics to Spain.

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