Uncovering the history of drama and music in early modern London
The Records of Early English Drama (REED) project has worked for over forty years to discover, transcribe and publish documents which illuminate the history of drama and music in England up to 1642. In 2019, Professor Tracey Hill was awarded funding from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council to start a new phase of REED: Civic London 1558-1642.
The City of London was not only the capital city and major economic driver of early modern England with its own discrete form of governance, but it was also a community with rich and enduring cultural traditions. Civic London 1558-1642 will for the first time bring the entirety of the extant post-1558 City of London performance material into the public domain.
The Civic London project will transcribe and publish records of dramatic and musical performance in the City of London from the start of the reign of Elizabeth I to 1642, when the city’s theatres were closed down by Act of Parliament. The project focuses on civic performance: activities which were staged or sponsored by the city’s governing authorities, livery companies and other public bodies. The streets of the early modern city and its company halls were alive with the sounds of drummers, trumpeters and other musicians accompanying civic pageantry, often with performances scripted by the same playwrights and performed by the same actors as worked in the theatres.
The project team are very grateful to the Guildhall Library, City of London, and to the City’s livery companies for allowing us to post transcriptions of their records.