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the early middle ages

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Two late 12th-century opinions of London

Amid the noble cities of the world, the City of London, throne of the English kingdom, is one which has spread its fame far and wide, its wealth and merchandise to great distances, raised its head on high. It is blessed by a wholesome climate, blessed too in Christ's religion, in the strength of its fortifications, in the nature of its site, the repute of its citizens, the honour of its matrons; happy in its sports, prolific in noble men . . .
The citizens of London are universally held up for admiration and renown for the elegance of their manners and dress, and the delights of their tables. Other cities have citizens, London's are called barons. Among them an oath-swearing ends every dispute. The matrons of the City are very Sabines... London like Rome is divided into wards; has sheriffs annually appointed for consuls; has a senatorial order, and lesser magistracies; sewers and aqueducts in its streets; deliberative, demonstrative, judicial cases have their distinct places, their individual courts; London has its assemblies on fixed days. I can think of no city with customs more admirable, in the visiting of churches, ordaining of festivals to God's honour and their due celebration, in almsgiving, in receiving guests, in concluding betrothals, contracting marriages, celebrating weddings, laying on ornate feasts and joyful occasions, and also in caring for the dead and burying them. The only plagues of London are the immoderate drinking of fools and the frequency of fires. Added to all this almost all the bishops, abbots and great men of England are as it were citizens and dwellers in the City of London, having their own noble edifices, where they stay and lay out lavish expenditure when they are summoned to the City by the king or their archbishop to councils or other large gatherings, or to attend to their own affairs.
- William Fitzstephen,  a close companion of
Thomas Becket

I do not at all like that city. All sorts of men crowd together there from every country under the heavens. Each race brings its own vices and its own customs to the city. No one lives in it without falling into some sort of crimes. Every quarter of it abounds in grave obscenities ... Whatever evil or malicious thing that can be found in any part of the world, you will find in that one city. Do not associate with the crowds of pimps; do not mingle with the throngs in the eating- houses; avoid dice and gambling, the theatre and the tavern. You will meet with more braggarts there than in all France; the number of parasites is infinite. Acots, jesters, smooth-skinned lads, Moors, flatterers, pretty boys, effeminates, pederasts, singing and dancing girls, quacks, belly-dancers, sorceresses, extortioners, night- wanderers, magicians, mimes, beggars, buffoons: all this tribe fill all the houses. Therefore, if you do not want to dwell with evil-doers, do not live in London.
- Richard of Devizes

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