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It is the arcades of early twentieth-century Paris that are the most familiar to scholars in urban studies because of the work of critical theorist Walter Benjamin and surrealist writers such as Louis Aragon and André Breton. This entry, however, focuses on the arcades of London.

Arcades arguably originated in London in the sixteenth century as the sites of financial exchange and trade. Adopting a spatial arrangement from Italian mercantile cities where the financial exchange of bankers took place in arcaded courtyards, the Royal Exchange, built in 1568, consisted of a two-story gallery around an open courtyard. In 1609 a rival, the New Exchange, was built farther west in the Strand, internalizing the courtyard and placing an arcaded walk around the outside, two rows of shops ...

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