‘by birth for the most part a mixture of all counties ’
John Stow, antiquary, 1598
London, overshadowed in wealth and size by the great cities of Europe, was by far the largest city in England. As the population expanded, the city became desperately overcrowded. Suburbs sprang up around the capital, Southwark grew in size and importance and London’s influence spread far beyond the built-up area.
London’s population continued to rise despite high levels of mortality, because many flocked to the capital in search of work and prospects. The first surviving register of City freemen tells us that 90% of the young men who finished their apprenticeships between 1551 and 1553 had come from other parts of the country.