This Week's Story

John Winthrop discovers a different world in a filthy, crowded, and dangerous city!

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Different Worlds: “A Smelly City,” part one

As John Winthrop and his father entered London, a woman yelled, “Gardez-loo!” Slop flew through the air from a nearby window. Some spattered on the horses of Winthrop’s carriage.

Mr. Winthrop’s face tightened with disgust. “This city is filthy, crowded, and dangerous! Queen Elizabeth rules the nation, but the people ruin the streets. Son, look at the stinking streets! The people throw toilet waste and garbage from their houses into the street or into the River Thames. Butchers toss animal guts and skin into the river. Then the people wash their clothes and bathe in the river. Do you see the people with handkerchiefs over their noses?

“Son, be alert. The streets are unsafe, especially in poorer areas where the people are desperate. On busy streets, you can be sure there is a pickpocket ready to steal from you. He’ll be too fast for you to catch and there is no police force to help you.

“John, I know London excites you. It’s action, adventure, the noise of thousands of people crammed into a city. It’s almost as though

you’ve rapped a bee’s nest and bees are buzzing and zooming to some unknown nectar. Actually many of these people are not excited with their lives. They’re trapped. Each person knows what social class he or she must stay in. It’s either the elite, the merchants, or the lowest unfortunates. London lives and dies with injustice.

“I challenge you. Understand the different worlds in which you will live. See people. Hear them. Soon you’ll be leaving for Trinity College and then Cambridge University. It’s a different world from what you’ve experienced.

“You’re happy on our Groton family estate. You explore forests, listen to discussions we have at home with visitors and family. We’re respected. You’re the son of a lawyer, owner and manager of a successful estate. Though England struggles economically, we’re not poor.

“How will you and your life change when you leave home to attend school or work in London?

“As a lawyer I have to deal with the world of London. I can’t escape its dirt, crime, cutthroat businesses, inefficient courts, and poor people. I am astonished at the explosion of art, music, plays, extravagant parties, science, and sports. Crude and cruel street entertainment is free and public! Thousands of people flock to see hangings. Little children on their fathers’ shoulders watch the condemned die.

“Street sports include bear and bull baiting, and dog and cock fights. Criminals can be executed on the street or humiliated in stocks. Witches can be judged by water trial. And so, England is corrupted.

John exclaimed, “Father, I love home… our fields, forests, hunting, fishing ponds, manor, visitors, and family! But, may I see London? I know it is the biggest city in England with more than 200,000 people. Immigrants from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East come here. I want to see Shakespeare’s new stage play Hamlet at the Globe Theater!”

“John, we’ll see Shakespeare’s play, but we won’t be looking for entertainment on the streets.”

Little did John know that in future years he would move to a new world across the Atlantic Ocean. He would give his life and fortune to help establish a vision of a colony where people had integrity and material success, where they worked together for God and the good of the whole.

This is Barbara Steiner with a founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Please check out:

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