London and its History
London is one of the most prestigious cities in the world. It is the capital city of England. Some of its landmarks and buildings are largely etched with a long history. Many visitors find its history quite fascinating and are drawn to its rich culture and heritage.
Londinium – Ancient London
The city got its name from the ancient Roman city of Londinium that was established as a civilian town by Romans. After destruction by the Iceni, led by their queen, Boudicca, the city grew rapidly following its rebuilding as a planned Roman town. Londinium replaced Colchester as the capital of Roman Britain during the second century. More structures came about and public amenities like temples and baths were constructed. After taking forty five years to construct a city wall, the Romans finally fortified this place in 225 AD. This wall surrounded the city for 1,600 years more.
Londinium was attacked many times by the Saxon pirates. The Roman Empire released Londinium by 410 AD and it was settled by mostly Anglo-Saxons. It became a part of a single country with a single ruler of England with Winchester becoming its first capital city.
The Norman invasion took place in 1066. Edward the Confessor had the Westminster Abbey built and recognised it as a royal palace. The city was then called `London’. Under the command of the Normans, several fortresses were built such as the Tower of London, Montfichet’s Castle and the Baynard’s Castle. The Tower of London was the first structure to be modified from a wooden structure to a stone structure. The famous London Bridge was also constructed during the Norman regime.
London during the Medieval Ages
Archbishop Simon Sudbury, the Lord Chancellor was executed in 1381 when Wat Tyler charged the Tower of London with a group of peasants. The Lord Treasurer was also murdered. The city was pillaged and the buildings were burnt. This was the setting of the Medieval Ages. Trade started to stabilize and the city of London grew slowly. The population grew from a mere thousand to almost eighty thousand by 1348 but almost half of that number was lost to the bubonic plague some hundred years later. This was known as the period of the Black Death or the Great Plague. It lasted till 1665.
London suffered another big setback with the Great Fire of 1666. This wiped out almost the entire city, leaving it in chaos and ashes. The famous architect, Christopher Wren, reconstructed London and built it with stone as the major medium of building. By the middle of the eighteenth century, London grew and had almost 600,000 settlers. The famous detailed map of London was drafted by John Rocques in 1746. Fleet Street in London became the foundation of the British press and growing literacy in London.
The Nineteenth Century and the Transformation after becoming England’s Capital
With the advent of the nineteenth century, society in London saw its division of the upper and middle class north and west segments and the working or the poor class in the south and the east segments. This division still exists to some point, even today. Many significant events took place during the nineteenth century. After the success of the First World Fair and the Great Exhibition in 1851 in Hyde Park, several museums were constructed such as the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum. The first railway lines were laid and numerous train stations were opened. The first railway connected Greenwich to the London Bridge. Joseph Bazalgette was assigned to build a new system of sewage for London under the Metropolitan Board Works in 1858. There was a major influx of Irish immigrants during the later part of this century. London slowly began to prosper with many wealthy businessmen settling there.
The Twentieth Century and the World Wars
London could not avoid being an integral part of the two major world wars in the twentieth century. Germans attacked London during both wars and created havoc in this city. Many Jews also moved away from Nazi Germany during the period of 1918 to 1945 in order to avoid persecution. During the 1930s, London faced heavy unemployment problems as a result of the Great Depression.
The creation of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the British Union of Fascists led to the Battle of Cable Street in 1936. The famous Nazi Blitz in 1941 damaged a major portion of London when the city had to go through another trial during the Second Great Fire. By the end of the Second World War, London had almost 30,000 people dead and more than 50,000 injured. Thousands of buildings were damaged. It took a long time to rebuild the city after 1945.
After the city’s reconstruction post the Second World War, the Olympics were held here in 1948. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1956 when many Londoners were used coal to keep their homes heated. It created extensive smog, the city lost its charm and was labeled the `Smoke City’. The Great Smog of 1952 killed more than 4,000 people with lung diseases and the Clean Air Act became a necessity to make London a relatively smoke free zone.
The Beatles also brought London on the youth culture map. Fifty years on, London remains the grand capital and the culture hub of England. Today, you have the London Eye as an iconic structure. It is the largest observation wheel in the world. It brings in millions of visitors every year from all corners of the world.
Sports is a big deal in this great city. London hosted the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics making it the first city to host the modern games three times, the other years being 1908 and 1948
London remains a strong, vibrant and prosperous city regardless of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, in what is now known as Brexit.