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Short history of London

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London in Roman times

The regions around London (now within the boundaries of Greater London) seem to have been inhabited by Britons islanders since prehistoric times, but no archaeological evidence has been unearthed in north of London bridge, where the city is truly born and from which it developed. The oldest traces of certain sustainable facilities date back to year 43 and are due to the Romans, after their conquest of Britain, building a city first. The first camp was called Londinium. The London bridge was at the center of the new road network created by the Romans and was a privileged passage through the Thames, which has attracted many traders and contributed to the growth of the city. London is fast becoming a major center of trade and commerce, the Thames allowing easy transport of goods to the heart of the city.

Westminster Abbey (Westminster Abbey)

18 years only after the founding of the city by the Romans, Queen Boadicea, head of the Celtic people of the Iceni, stands against the Roman invasion and took London to target. The governor Suetonius Paulinus, then busy to exterminate the Druids on the island of Anglesey, can not constitute an army in time to counter the Celtic invasion. The city is partially evacuated, but thousands of merchants are killed. London is so completely looted and destroyed. Archaeological excavations have helped to uncover the presence of burnt debris covering coins and pottery dating back to year 60, within the limits of the Roman city.

The city is quickly rebuilt and prosperous again, based on trade in Britain, replacing Colchester as the capital of the Roman province of Britain. There is however no information to date and explain the transfer of the capital. By the second century, the city is surrounded by walls: the London Wall. For over a millennium, the boundaries of the city are marked by the wall that delimits a largely enclosed area today by that of the City. At its peak in the third century, the population of Londinium reached between 45 000 and 60 000 people according to the sources. When the Roman Empire began to decline, the troops protecting the city are recalled on the continent, London began to decline and the population decreases. There is little information about this period called Dark Ages of London, but after the departure of the Romans from Britain in 410, there is good evidence that in the fifth century, London is ruin and virtually abandoned.

The Anglo-Saxon occupation

The privileged position of the city on the Thames makes it a strategic location, and about the year 600 the Anglo-Saxons founded a new city, Lundenwic, about 1 km upstream of the Roman city, where lies Covent Garden today. A fishing and trade port is probably located at the mouth of the River Fleet. Lundenwic is prosperous until 851, when the city was invaded and completely destroyed by the Vikings. After the Viking occupation, Alfred the Great restored peace and moves the city within the walls of the old Roman city (then called Lundenburgh) in 886. The original city became Ealdwic ( “old town”), whose name has survived until today to Aldwych.

Then, under the control of several English kings, London is experiencing a new phase of prosperity, becoming a place of power and a center of trade and commerce. However, Viking raids resumed in the tenth century and reach their peak in 1013, when the city was besieged by the Danish Cnut the Great and King Æthelred the Unready is forced to flee. During a counter attack, the army of the king Æthelred won a victory by destroying the London bridge while the Danish garrison was over. Knut however became King of England and his descendants reigned until 1042. A Saxon king, Edward the Confessor, succeeds and recast the Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster. At that time, London became the largest and most prosperous city of England, although the seat of government is still at Winchester.

Medieval London

Tower of London (The Tower of London in the fifteenth century)

After the Battle of Hastings, the Duke of Normandy William the Conqueror is crowned king of England in the new Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. It grants certain privileges to the people of London while building a castle in the south east of the city to maintain control over the population. This castle, enlarged by the following kings, serves as a royal residence and prison and is now known as the Tower of London.

In 1097, William Rufus begins the construction of Westminster Hall, near the abbey with the same name. This hall is the origin of Westminster Palace, the royal residence throughout the Middle Ages. Westminster became the seat of the royal court and government, while the neighbor City of London became a thriving center of trade and commerce under the authority of its own administration, the Corporation of London. The surrounding towns develop and form the base of the heart of modern London, replacing Winchester as capital of the kingdom of England in the twelfth century.

On 2 June 1216, Prince Louis (later Louis VIII) seized the city until 1217.

The modern times

After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, political stability in England allows London to grow further. In 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended to the English throne and seeks to unify the two countries. His anti-Catholic laws make it very unpopular and he suffered an assassination attempt on November 6, 1605, the famous Gunpowder Plot.

 Great Fire of London (The Great Fire of London, which destroyed part of the city in 1666)

Several black plague epidemics were affecting London in the early seventeenth century, culminating in the great London plague of 1665, which killed about 20% of the population. The following year, the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the wooden houses of the city. The reconstruction of London holds the next decade.

Panorama of London (Panorama of London in the seventeenth century)

The contemporary era

Palace of Westminster (The Palace of Westminster seen from the old Westminster Bridge in the 1890s)

From 1825 to 1925, London is the most populous city in the world. This growth was accelerated by the construction of the first lines of railway in London, closely aligned to nearby cities. Driven by an exceptionally fast growth stock, this rail network is expanding rapidly and allows these cities to grow while allowing London to expand and encompass the surrounding villages. The onset of congestion in the city center led to the creation in 1863 of the first underground transit system in the world, the London Underground, further accelerating the development of urbanization. With this rapid growth, London became one of the first cities to over a million inhabitants and the first to exceed five million.

London’s local government has difficulty managing rapid expansion of the city, especially in infrastructure. Between 1855 and 1889, the Metropolitan Board of Works oversees the infrastructure growth. It is replaced by the County of London, run by the London County Council, the first elected assembly in the city until 1965.

 London during the Blitz in World War II (Street of London during the Blitz in World War II)

The Blitz and the Luftwaffe German bombing during World War lead to the death of about 30 000 people and destroyed many homes and buildings in the city. The reconstruction in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s is characterized by a lack of architectural unity, typical of modern London. In 1965, the limits of London are changed to reflect the expansion of the city outside the county of London. The new enlarged territory, administered by the Greater London Council, takes the name of Greater London.

In the decades following World War II, a large immigration from Commonwealth countries decolonized made London one of the most ethnically cosmopolitan European cities. The integration of new immigrants does not always go smoothly, with for example the riots in Brixton in the 1980s, but it goes better than in other UK regions.

London Eye (London Eye, one of the symbols of modern London, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:London_Eye_Twilight_April_2006.jpg)

The economic revival of the 1980s restored London on the front of the international scene. As the seat of government and main city of the UK, the city experienced many terrorist episodes. The Provisional IRA is trying to pressure the British government about the negotiations in Northern Ireland, frequently disrupting city activities with bomb threats or attacks until the cease-fire of 1997. July 7, 2005, a series of attacks perpetrated in London public transport by Islamist suicide bombers, just 24 hours after the 2012 Olympic Games is entrusted to the city.

Translated from Wikipedia

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