On this day in history : 29th December 1675 – King Charles II orders the closing of all coffee houses, as he believes they are a hub of malicious gossip about the Government…. It causes a national outcry….

17th century London coffeehouse – Image : Bodleian Library, University of Oxford – Public domain

Coffee had only relatively recently arrived in Europe from Turkey and had quickly become a fashionable drink – not because it tasted good, as this early coffee really did not – but because of the buzz the caffeine gave…. People were soon addicted to it…. The first coffee house opened in Oxford in 1652, with London following in the same year with one in Cornhill…. Soon coffee houses were everywhere….

The non-alcohol serving, men only establishments became lively meeting places both for social and business purposes…. Aside from general chit-chat of the day deals would be struck, current affairs debated and pamphlets distributed…. Each coffee house would have its own particular clientele, often defined by a profession or occupation – politicians, merchants, bankers, authors and poets, artists and musicians…. Some establishments were rather more shady, favoured by criminals and pimps….

King Charles II became nervous; he was convinced that the population was plotting treason; he believed the peace of the realm was at stake with the establishments promoting rumour mongering – and that they made people idle…. And so he issued a proclamation to make coffee houses illegal – but he didn’t stop there….He also banned the selling of coffee and for good measure added to the ban the sale of tea, chocolate and sherbet….

King Charles II – by John Michael Wright – Public domain

His law to ban coffee houses was passed on the 29th of December 1675 – set to become active from the 10th of January 1676…. The law was so unpopular, including among members of his own government, that he finally backed down and the law was withdrawn on the 8th of January….

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