This article offers a history of British seventeenth-century coffeehouse licensing which integrates an understanding of the micro-politics of coffeehouse regulation at the local level with an analysis of the high political debates about coffeehouses at the national level. The first section details the norms and practices of coffeehouse licensing and regulation by local magistrates at the county, city, and parish levels of government. The second section provides a detailed narrative of attempts by agents of the Restoration monarchy to regulate or indeed suppress the coffeehouses at the national level. The political survival of the new institution is attributed to the ways in which public house licensing both regulated and also legitimated the coffeehouse. The rise of the coffeehouse should not be understood as a simple triumph of a modern public sphere over absolutist state authority; it offers instead an example of the ways in which the early modern norms and practices of licensed privilege could frustrate the policy goals of the Restored monarchy.
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