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Coffee houses

Coffee had been introduced from Turkey in the second half of the seventeenth century and had rapidly become a popular drink. Between 1670 and 1685 coffee houses multiplied in London. The first coffee house in Italy appeared in Venice and in England was set in Oxford. The first coffee house in London, Cornhill, was opened in 1652. In the coffee houses people spent their time discussing the issues of the day while enjoying coffee, tea, rum, and beer and smoking cigars. Each political or literary party had its meeting place of this sort and London life grew more animated. Coffee houses were associated with news and gossip and provided entertainment so they served as center of social interaction even if woman were banned from them. Each coffee house catered for customers with a particular type of interest and was specialized in a particular topic or political viewpoint. However they weren't only meeting places, but also good places to conduct business. Merchants, when they wanted to insure their ships and cargoes, met at Lloyd's. The favorite coffee house for writers was Will's, near Covent Garden, while clergymen went to Truby's and scholars to the Grecian.
Men of fashion went to White's and Brook's, which later became well-known gentlemen's club. Cafés also served to spread news at a time when communication systems were rudimentary, to say the least and person to person contact was the only effective way of getting news. Coffee houses contributed to the development of culture through journals and newspapers and were also known as "Penny University", because at the price of one penny only, everyone could go in and listens to writers, artists or politicians. The development of clubs in the coffee houses encouraged the appearance of journals which were bought by these clubs for their members to read. They contained essays on fashion, literature, politics, people and all sorts of other subjects and were the first form of newspaper ever published. One of these was the Spectator, founded in 1712 by Josef Addison and Richard Steele.
Today when you want to know the latest news on politics, science, business you log on the Internet, three centuries ago, you went to a coffee house. Europe's interconnected web of coffee houses formed the Internet of the Enlightenment.
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