Coffeehouses were key centres of sociability in eighteenth-century Britain. They played an important role both as real spaces for social interaction and as virtual places in which normative ideals of urban and polite sociability were imagined.
Covent Garden lay at the heart of the eighteenth-century metropolis, beside the major route between the Court and aristocratic Westminster to the west and the commercial City of London to the east.
Parish churches have provided key places of sociability from the Middle Ages to the present. Particularly in premodern times, when attendance was expected if not mandatory, they accommodated members of both sexes, different age groups and representatives of poorer as well as more prosperous inhabitants.
As British portrait painters’ working spaces evolved from craftsmen’s workshops into painting rooms supplemented with exhibition rooms and fitted out to accommodate Society patrons, they became places of intense sociability.
The Royal Academy of Arts, founded in 1768, was an example of restricted professional and cultural sociability. The statutes limited the number of members and imposed rules of good behavior to ensure that politeness prevailed within the institution.
Founded in 1660, the Royal Society is the world’s oldest scientific institution. In the long eighteenth century, fellows dedicated themselves to understanding the causes of natural and artificial phenomena, but the activities that brought them together were also profoundly social and dictated by social convention.