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Markets and Exploration

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Markets and Exploration

Shakespeare for Kids

Wenceslaus Hollar. Byrsa Londinensis vulgo the Royal Exchange. Etching, ca. 1644

Ortelius. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Antwerp, 1595. 

George Gower. The "Sieve" portrait of Elizabeth I. Oil on panel, 1579.

Shopping became an important part of life in London in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Royal Exchange was the city first "mall." It opened in 1569, and was the first building of its kind in London by having many types of shops all together in one place.  


In addition to products made in England, the Royal Exchange also contained goods from other parts of the world. Merchants and traders gathered here to exchange information, make business arrangements, and buy and sell products.


London had other markets as well. Cheapside was the city's first large open-air market. At Smithfield, livestock including cattle and sheep were sold, and at Bartholomew Fair, people came from all over England, and eventually from all over Europe, to buy cloth during this 3-day fair that happened every year from 1133 to 1855.


While people in England were busy shopping, English explorers set out to find new trades routes. On their travels, they discovered new products, and these items eventually were brought to England to be bought and sold. These included tea from China, rice, gold, and ivory from Africa, chocolate from South America, and fish and lumber from North America.

  Did you know?

Queen Elizabeth I visited the new shopping area when it opened and liked it so much that she gave permission for it to be called "The Royal Exchange"!

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A Trip to the First Mall

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