In the early 18th century, Edinburgh had a population of over 50,000 people and was one of the most over populated towns in Europe at this time, leading to Daniel Defoe making the comment “though many cities have more people in them, yet, I believe, this may be said with truth, that in no city in the world do so many people live in so little room as at Edinburgh” (Defoe 1978). The city was essentially made up of one street known as “The Royal Mile” leading from the Castle down south to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and leading from east and west off this street are tiny streets called closes. The conditions of Edinburgh at this time were cramped and filthy as chamber pots were emptied on to the streets from the tall buildings above. These unfavorable conditions led to the construction of New Town in the late 1760s .
Map 1: Edinburgh in 1765
The construction of New Town brought wealth and capital to Edinburgh. The upper and middle class moved into the new area of Edinburgh and with this came the emergence of modernity in the city. Demands for leisure and entertainment brought new public spaces such as Public Parks, Theaters and Department Stores. Jenner’s on Princes Street played a huge part in how women in Edinburgh would experience public space just as men had the privilege of doing all along . Women were the driving force behind the success of department stores as Charles Jenner once stated that “It is women who decide how most of the family income is to be spent,” (McClean 2013). This acknowledgment meant that women would eventually be fully accepted in the public sphere where they could go out alone or with a female friend “without compromising their respectability”(Wolff, 2006).
Map 2: Edinburgh showing New Town and Old Town after Edinburghs expansion in the late 1760s
- Daniel Defoe, 1978. A Tour Through The Whole Island Of Britain. Penguin 1978, p.577
- David McClean, 2013. accessed at: http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/lost-edinburgh-charles-jenner-co-1-3095700#ixzz3njASDiED on 05/10/2015.
- Wolff, Janet. “Gender and the Haunting of Cities (or, the Retirement of the flâneur)”. The invisible flâneuse? : gender, public space, and visual culture in nineteenth century Paris. Eds. Aruna D’Souza and Tom McDonough. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006. Print.