RHS Lecture — ‘Migrant Voices in the Multilingual City’

28 September 2023

‘Migrant Voices in the Multilingual City’



Dr John Gallagher

(University of Leeds)

RHS Lecture on 15 September 2023






Early modern London was multilingual, and early modern urban life was shaped by linguistic diversity. The reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) witnessed an important ‘migration moment’, with substantial numbers of migrants and refugees coming to England as a consequence of religious and political conflict on the continent. In London, a rapidly growing urban capital, the voices of migrants mingled audibly with the other languages of the city, shaping a multilingual oral culture which had to be navigated by strangers and Londoners alike.

This lecture draws on the multilingual archives of Elizabethan London’s ‘stranger churches’ – Protestant congregations which catered to the needs of French-, Dutch-, and Italian-speaking migrants (among others) at a moment of significant migration to England from continental Europe – to explore how linguistic diversity shaped social relations in the early modern city.