This course examines the hidden lives and histories that are buried under London in terms of both the physical and conceptual underground. Underground London is not just the Tube (though we will explore that too). It’s the series of physical and historic layers that have built up over time, from the Romans to the modern era, all creating the London that we live in (and on) today. Underground rivers, tunnels, and bunkers were and still are active locations in the city.
We will also explore the concept of the underground by investigating hidden groups that banded together for survival. Some created havens, others engaged in crimes. Catholicism was illegal in the UK from 1559-1791, which led Guy Fawkes to attempt to blow up Parliament as part of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. Homosexuality was outlawed in England until 1967, which led to gay men using a coded language called Polari to safely identify each other in public. Thieves thrive in the dark corners afforded by London’s anonymity, and criminal gangs have been active in London since its beginnings.
We will question what it means to be underground, through examination of social history, archaeology, and art history. What can we learn about ourselves and others when underground lives are brought to the surface?
Matriculated SU history majors and minors: This course counts toward the European concentration and the pre-modern or modern period.
Semesters: Fall, Spring