views updated May 18 2018


Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

London, England, United Kingdom, Europe

Founded: 1st century a.d.
Location: Southeastern England on the Thames River
Motto: "God save the Queen."
Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT); 1 pm British Summer Time (late Marchlate October) = noon GMT
Elevation: 5 m (16 ft)
Latitude and Longitude: 40°45'N, 73°59'W
Climate : Mild winters and temperate summers
Annual Mean Temperature: 11°C (52.0°F); January 5.5°C (42°F); July 18°C (65°F)
Seasonal Average Snowfall: 20 days of snow, no accumulation;
Average Annual Precipitation (total of rainfall and melted snow): 101.6 cm (40 in)
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Metric system
Monetary Units: Decimal system based on the pound sterling, a paper currency of 100 pence
Telephone Area Codes: 20, followed by 7 or 8 depending on location; (UK Code, 44)
Postal Codes: Letter for general area (E = East; EC = East Central; N = North; NW = Northwest; SE = Southeast; SW = Southwest; W = West; WC = West Central); numbers for specific district

1. Introduction

London, the capital of Great Britain, is also one of the world's capitals of finance, fashion, arts and entertainment. The city has a recorded history dating back to Roman times and encompassing the lives of such illustrious political figures as William the Conqueror, Thomas à Becket, and Queen Elizabeth I, as well as those of William Shakespeare, John Milton, and the other authors who created one of the world's great bodies of literature. Formerly the heart of a vast empire, London was also a center of the Industrial Revolution (c. 1750) and a showcase for both the material progress and the dire social ills it created. In the twentieth century, the city has rebuilt and renewed itself following the devastating bombing attacks of World War II (19391945) and discovered a new identity as a post-imperial, multi-ethnic metropolis. It enters a new century (and the third millennium of its history) reinvigorated by a booming economy, as well as the inauguration of a new form of local government.

2. Getting There

Located in southeastern England, London is approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) upstream from the Thames River's estuary on the North Sea.


Various highways lead into London from all directions, like the spokes of a wheel, intersecting with highway M25, which rings the Greater London area, and, farther in, with highways A205 and 406, which circle the central part of the city.

Bus and Railroad Service

Eurostar trains provide service between London and six destinations in France and Belgium. London's train stations provide direct connections to the city's buses and Underground. The Chunnel train runs between Paris and London's Waterloo station.


Located 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the center of London, Heathrow Airport is one of the busiest in the world. Gatwick, which is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the city, is less heavily used, but traffic there is growing steadily. Smaller airports are Stansted, used primarily for travel to and from the European continent, and London City Airport, which is popular with business travelers from elsewhere in Britain and from northern Europe.


Historically, London's location on the Thames and its proximity to both the English Channel and the North Seaas well as its position as the center of an international empiremade it one of the world's great trading centers. Until World War II the Port of London was the busiest in the world. Since the late 1960s, however, London's shipping traffic has declined dramatically due to competition, labor problems, and changes in the shipping industry itself. In 2000, the Port of London accounted for only eight percent of Britain's total shipping traffic.

London Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 3,900
Area: 2.7 sq km (1 sq mi)
Nicknames: The Square Mile, The City

Metropolitan Area

Population: 7,640,000
Description: Consists of 33 boroughs
Area: 1,579 sq km (610 sq mi)
World population rank 1: 25
Percentage of national population 2: 13.1%
Average yearly growth rate: 0%

  1. The London metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of England's total population living in the London metropolitan area.

London's port is administered by the Port of London Authority (PLA), which handles environmental and navigation issues for the part of the Thames that falls under its jurisdiction. Through its 86 terminals, the port handles a full range of cargo, which is shipped to destinations all over the world.

3. Getting Around

London can be divided into three concentric districts that reflect the city's growth over time. At the core is the historic City of London, which covers only 2.6 square kilometers (one square mile). It forms part of a larger surrounding area known as Inner London, which was developed between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. Inner London is surrounded by the remaining outer boroughs, consisting of residential suburbs built in the first half of the twentieth century, which complete the greater metropolitan area.

The major means of orientation in Inner London is the Thames River, which divides the city into north and south. (Most important points in the city are on the northern bank.) Another major point of reference is the contrast between east and west: the wealthier and more prestigious parts of the city lie toward the west while the East End is a working-class manufacturing and shipping district.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Bus and rail services are operated by London Transport throughout the Greater London area. A fleet of about 5,400 buses covers 700 routes which encompass 140 bus stations and stands and some 10,000 bus shelters. The city's underground trains (known simply as the Underground or "the Tube") service over 260 stations; 500 trains make over 2.5 million passenger journeys daily. The £3.2 billion Jubilee Line Extension, opened in November 1999, runs between Green Park and Waterloo. It is the single largest expansion of the underground system in 25 years.


A number of bus tours are available, including the hour-and-a-half Original London Sightseeing Tour aboard an old-fashioned double-decker bus. Harrods department store operates its own double-decker bus tours, and Big Bus Company, Ltd. runs two-hour tours in the summertime, covering 18 popular tourist attractions.

Companies offering walking tours include the Original London Walks, Discovery Walks, Guided Walks in London, and John Wittich.

The Port of London, an increasingly popular cruise ship destination, has four cruise ship moorings, at Tower Bridge, Greenwich, West India Dock, and Tilbury. Tours are also offered on London's canals.

4. People

In 1992, the population of the City of London, the central downtown part of the city, was estimated at 3,900. The surrounding area of Inner London, consisting of the City of London and 13 boroughs of Greater London, had an estimated population of 2,632,100. Altogether, the population of the 33 boroughs of the Greater London metropolitan area was estimated at 6,904,600.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, London's immigrant communities were mostly small and self-contained, giving it a less cosmopolitan flavor than other comparable cities. Nineteenth-century immigrant groups included Italians, French, Chinese, Germans, Scandinavians, Irish, and, in the last decades of the century, Polish and Russian Jews. (More Jewish immigrants from both Eastern and Western Europe followed in the years before and after World War II.)

City Fact Comparison
Population of urban area17,640,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded1st centuary ADAD 969753 BC723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy)$219$193$172$129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)$79$56$59$62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)$20$14$15$16
Total daily costs$318$173$246$207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city21132011
Largest newspaperNews of the WorldAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper4,316,8251,159,339754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1843194419761948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

Since the influx of immigrants from Britain's former colonies that began in the 1950s, London's population has steadily grown even more diverse. The new immigrants include West Indians, East Indians, Bangladeshis, and people from a variety of African nations. When the 1991 census was taken, one child of every three born in London was born to an immigrant mother. In 2000, nearly one-quarter of the city's population was born overseas. However, much of the ethnic diversity of Greater London is concentrated in its western boroughs while those to the east are home primarily to British-born whites.

5. Neighborhoods

Because London developed in a random fashion rather than according to a plan, it is actually a cluster of distinct neighborhoods rather than a unified metropolis. Outside the older, original part of the city, London's various neighborhoods retain some features of the individual villages they once were before they were incorporated into the expanding capital. Each has its own character, with its own distinct combination of residents, building styles, and local businesses, and each inspires a strong feeling of attachment among its residents. However, there also tends to be diversity within these neighborhoods, thanks to London's multi-ethnic population and the presence of public rental housing in most parts of the city, assuring some diversity in income level in most areas.

London's oldest district is "the City," the part that corresponds to the original walled city (Londinium) built by the Romans in the first century A. D. and still occupies its original area of roughly 2.6 square kilometers (one square mile). Today it is home to London's major financial institutions, including the Bank of England and the London Stock Exchange, and is full of hustle and bustle during weekdays. However, only a fraction of the City's busy work force actually lives there, so it is all but deserted on weekends.

Located along the Thames in the western part of London, and to the east of St. James's Park, Westminster is the political heart of London, home of the British parliament and the prime minister's residence at Number 10 Downing Street. It is also the location of one of the world's great religious structures, Westminster Abbey. Westminster has more historic buildings and fewer commercial sites than any other part of London and also encompasses the area known as Victoria, which gets its name from the Victoria Station stop on the Underground.

Located in the fashionable West End, St. James' and Mayfair are the wealthiest and most aristocratic parts of central London. The elite Mayfair district is the site of fashionable homes, luxury hotels, and exclusive shops while St. James' is the home of Buckingham Palace and the last bastion of that traditional hallmark of British privilege, the all-male gentleman's club. To the north is Marylebone, home of the famous Madame Toussaud's waxworks. To the west, south of Hyde Park, is Knightsbridge, where the popular Harrod's department store is located; it is one of London's most fashionable residential and shopping districts. Further south lie aristocratic Belgravia and stylish Chelsea.

To the north, the cosmopolitan neighborhood of Soho has been rescued from its one-time decline into a red-light district, although the famed Carnaby Street has never recaptured the glory of the 1960s when it was the heart of swinging London. With its great cultural diversity, this district boasts a large number and variety of ethnic eateries. Bloomsbury, a great literary and artistic center in the early twentieth century, is still the academic heart of London, as the location of the University of London and other colleges. Holborn, home to the Royal Courts of Justice, was historicallyand still isthe city's primary legal center.

East of the City of London lie the neighborhoods of the East End, including Bow, Poplar, West Ham, Stepney, Canning Town, and others. This has traditionally been the poorest part of the city. Heavily bombed during World War II, the East End has undergone large-scale urban renewal, but the large immigrant populations attracted to the area's low rents over the generations have left it a multicultural melting pot.

6. History

The Romans, who invaded Britain in A. D. 43, first founded London (which they called Londinium) at the site of the present-day City of London (the oldest, walled part or the "square mile") on the northern bank of the Thames River. Although burned down in a rebellion a scant 17 years later, the city was soon rebuilt and had become a flourishing trading center by A. D. 100. By the middle of the third century, Londinium was the largest city in Britain, with a population of as many as 50,000 inhabitants, and its boundaries corresponded to those of today's historic central core. In the fifth century, the Romans, under siege by Germanic invaders, vacated Londinium, and the city entered a long period of decay and neglect.

Following a Danish invasion in 878, King Alfred of Wessex (849899) retook and began rebuilding the city, which expanded northward and became known as Londontown. South-wark, on the south bank of the Thames, also grew and prospered, and Westminster, upstream from London and at that time an island surrounded by marsh-land, underwent development when King Edward the Confessor (c. 10031066) built a royal palace there following his accession in 1042. This was the beginning of Westminster's history as home to royalty and center of government. It was in Westminster Abbey that William, Duke of Normandy (10271087), was crowned king of England following the Norman Conquest in 1066. To win the cooperation of London's political leaders and wealthy merchants, he granted the city special powers through a charter.

By the end of the twelfth century, London had a population of around 40,000 and had elected its first mayor. In the fourteenth century, disaster struck, in the form of the Black Death, which spread to London via ships traveling from Europe and ultimately killed about one-third of England's population. Over the next three centuries, London was to undergo several recurrences of the epidemic.

The inception of the Tudor dynasty in 1485 brought the city further growth and prosperity, peaking with the reign of Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century, by which time London was the center of a global empire and one of the foremost cities of Europe. In the meantime, the population outside the city walls had grown dramatically, reaching 200,000 by the year 1600. Decrees were issued to slow further growth, limiting London to a "Green Belt" surrounding the outer city. The restrictions caused overcrowding in the central city, contributing to a new outbreak of plague in 1665. The following year, roughly two-thirds of the city (by now the world's largest) was burned down in the Great Fire.

A massive rebuilding effort restored the city, with brick and stone replacing its original wooden buildings. A new grid-based plan for the city by architect Sir Christopher Wren was not adopted, however, and London's layout essentially retained its original patterns. London grew rapidly in the eighteenth century, with a steadily expanding population and new streets and neighborhoods. Its first squares, including Covent Garden and Leicester Square, added new elegance to the fashionable parts of town. However, many in the oldest districts lived in dire poverty, and crime and rioting were commonplace.

In the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution caused further deterioration in living conditions for many Londoners, polluting their air and worsening the already existing pollution of the Thames. Yet, London remained the largest and wealthiest city in the world and the center of a vast empire, and the Great Exhibition of 1851, held in the Crystal Palace constructed in Hyde Park, celebrated the city's achievements.

The two world wars of the twentieth century brought air raids to London; those of World War II left the city decimated and necessitated large-scale rebuilding. A major postwar development was the exodus of many Londoners to the suburbs. The drive to attract immigrant labor from Britain's former Third World colonies turned London into a multi-ethnic city but also led to racial tensions.

Recent decades brought the "Swinging 60s," when London became the world's capital of popular culture; the economic crises of the 1970s; and the Thatcher Era of the 1980s, when the Greater London Council (GLC) was abolished, leaving the city with no metropolitan government. As the twentieth century drew to a close, London was on the eve of a new era in local government as its citizens prepared to elect a mayor and council.

7. Government

The City of London has had its own local governmentone of the world's oldestsince the Middle Ages. Even though it is now part of a much larger urban entity, the city has remained an autonomous jurisdiction with a Lord Mayor, a City Corporation, and, among other powers, jurisdiction over its own police force. The surrounding area of Greater London has been politically fragmented for most of its history. In 1965 more than 100 local councils were merged into 33 boroughs (one of which was the City of London), and the Greater London Council (GLC) was established to serve as the elected government of the greater metropolitan area. In 1986 the conservative national government led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (b. 1925) abolished the left-leaning (and, by many accounts, ineffective) GLC, leaving the individual borough councils as virtually the sole governing authority for Greater London.

In a May 1998 referendum sponsored by the British labor government elected in 1997, London's citizens voted for a restoration of government at the metropolitan level with the establishment of a mayor-council government to consist of a strong mayor directly elected by the voters and a 25-member assembly. With the new government slated to take office in the autumn of 2000, mayoral elections scheduled for 1999 drew a colorful roster of contenders, including actress Glenda Jackson and novelist and political conservative Jeffrey Archer.

8. Public Safety

London's Metropolitan Police District, first established in 1829, is responsible for an area of 2,035 square kilometers (786 square miles), which includes the entire metropolitan area and some of its environs. The City of London, however, has always retained its own police force in addition to the Metropolitan Police, and the two law enforcement organizations operate in tandem in the "square mile" at the center of London. Separate forces are also maintained by the Royal Parks Constabulary and the British Transport Police. Violent crime remains relatively rare in London, which is safer than many major cities in Europe and the United States. Although the regular police forces still do not carry guns, special "armed response units" now patrol the streets around the clock.

9. Economy

London was historically a shipping and manufacturing city. However, both of these sectors have declined sharply since the 1960s. Over a million manufacturing jobs were lost between 1960 and 1990 as traditional craft-based manufacturing waned and newer growth industries relocated to areas outside both London and other major cities, aided by government incentives to attract industry to high-unemployment regions. Manufacturing has been eclipsed by financial services, in which London has become both a national and a world leader. In 1990, business and financial services accounted for one in six jobs. London laid claim to one-third of all British employment in this sectorreportedly the world's largest concentration of such jobs in one metropolitan center. International banking, commodities, securities trading, and reinsurance services have crowded into modern office towers in the historic "square mile" of the City of London, providing new opportunities for commercial development, subject to the space limitations of the district. By the end of the 1990s, the recession of the early part of the decade was over; tourism was booming; and major public works projects were under way, spurred by the approach of a new millennium.

10. Environment

The industrial revolution brought both air and water pollution to London as early as the nineteenth century. The term "smog" was coined at the turn of the twentieth century to describe the mix of smoke from coal fires with London's characteristic fog. The heavily industrialized East End suffered the worst pollution of all. In the mid-twentieth century, the British government began to take action, passing the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, which outlawed coal burning. However, London's air is still polluted by carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzines, and other chemicals, and motor vehicle fumes remain a problem, endangering the health of London's residents and even causing deterioration of the city's buildings. Heavy smog was responsible for the deaths of over 160 people in 1992.

Industrialization and unregulated sewage disposal also compromised the condition of London's lifeline, the Thames River, which was so polluted by the mid-nineteenth century that its smell wafted through the halls of Parliament. Tighter pollution controls since the 1960s have improved the water quality of the river, and there has been an upsurge in the river's stock of fish and other forms of aquatic life. Another danger associated with the Thames is the likelihood of flooding, which posed serious threats to the population in 1928 and 1953. Authorized in the 1970s, the Thames Barrier, consisting of ten steel gates, was completed in 1982 at a cost of £500 million.

11. Shopping

Shopping is one of the favorite activities in London for residents and visitors alike. Besides Harrod's, well-known department stores in London include Marks & Spencer, Selfridges, and Liberty.

The West End is home to the greatest number of high-profile shops and department stores, many found in such key venues as Oxford Street and Bond Street. Another popular shopping spot there is the glass-roofed Burlington Arcade, which features a wide selection of shops and boutiques. Soho and Covent Garden both provide ample shopping opportunities, as does Knightsbridge, home of the famous Harrod's department store. Kensington High Street is popular with devotees of youth culture while Kensington Church Street is known for its selection of antique shops.

London's open markets are legendary. The most famous is Covent Garden Market has crafts, antiques, and other specialty shops. The suburb of Greenwich is known for its flea and craft markets, which brim with customers every Sunday. Portobello Market in Notting Hill is another well-known venue for antiques.

Charing Cross Road (made famous by 84 Charing Cross Road, a well-known book by Helene Hanff) is the city's major booksellers' district and includes a number of antiquarian book dealers.

Other areas where London presents special shopping opportunities include designer clothing, china, and glass collectibles.

12. Education

The 33 boroughs of Greater London are responsible for operating their own school systems, which are attended by nine out of ten children in London. The rest are enrolled in private schools. Among the most prestigious (with dates of founding) are St. Paul's School (1509), Harrow School (1572), Dulwich College (1618), and the City of London School (1834).

London's 12 universities enroll more than 110,000 full-time and 50,000 part-time students. The University of London consists of some three dozen separate institutions located throughout the metropolitan area, including Goldsmiths' College, Imperial College, King's College, and the famous London School of Economics. Among London's other universities are City University, Guildhall University, South Bank University, University of East London, and University of Westminster.

13. Health Care

In London, as elsewhere in Britain, both British residents and nationals of other EU countries receive free medical treatment under the National Health Service (NHS). Other visitors are covered for emergency care only. London's oldest hospital, St. Bartholomew's, was founded in 1123; other historic hospitals are St. Thomas's (1213), Guy's (1725), St. George's (1733), and the London Hospital (1740). Among the city's other health-care facilities are Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Middlesex Hospital, Royal Free Hospital, St. Bartholomew's Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital, University College Hospital, Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, and Moorfields Eye Hospital.

14. Media

The newspapers available in London are mostly national publications. At the upper end of the respectability spectrum are the daily "broadsheets" (with circulation figures from 1998): the Daily Telegraph (1,047,861) , the Times of London (766,999) , the Independent (223,110) , and the Guardian (393,856) . All have Sunday editions except the Guardian, whose publishers put out the Observer on Sundays. The "middle-brow" publications are the Daily Mail, the market leader (2,387,867), and the Daily Express (1,118,981) . At the bottom rung are the infamous tabloids, which cater to the universal taste for celebrity gossip, photographs by the paparazzi, and sensationalism of all kinds. Britain's leading tabloid is The Sun, which sells some seven million copies daily. Its major competitors are the Daily Star and the Mirror. London's only local daily paper is the Evening Standard, which resembles a local counterpart, the Daily Mail.

More than 6,500 professional and popular magazines are available in London, one of the world's publishing capitals. Women's magazines are the biggest sellers. Fashion magazines, men's magazines, and sports magazines are popular as well. International politics and business are covered by The Economist. Other serious publications include The Spectator, the New Statesman, and Prospect.

BBC-operated BBC1 and BBC2 provide London's most-watched television programming. BBC2 is the more creative and offbeat of the two. Independent channels include ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5. A wide gamut of FM stations broadcasts radio programming of all kinds.

15. Sports

In London, as elsewhere throughout Britain, soccer (called football) tops the list of popular sports for both spectators and participants. Amateur games can be found in parks and other green spaces throughout the city. The game is played professionally from August until May. The sport is organized within individual boroughs rather than citywide, giving London 13 teams, each of which is closely associated with a particular locality rather than the city itself. It is common for crowds of up to 15,000 to attend regular-season games, rising to between 30,000 and 40,000 for playoffs.

In summertime, cricket is popular. There are almost 1,000 clubs, and amateur games abound. Spring brings the annual boat race between the rival universities of Oxford and Cambridge. London draws the international attention of the sports world every June when the Wimbledon matches are held, and horse racing remains a popular spectator sport although Londoners must travel to such venues as Epsom Downs and Ascot as the city's last race-course closed in 1970. Other spectator sports include greyhound racing, hockey, and auto racing. Both forms of rugbyrugby league and rugby unionare played in London, whose rugby league team is the London Broncos. The American games of basketball and baseball are growing in popularity.

16. Parks and Recreation

London is famed for the network of parks, squares, and commons found throughout the city. Two of the best known are Grosvenors Square and Trafalgar Square, the latter a major landmark and popular venue for street performers. London's most famous city parks, all located in the West End, are St. James's Park (the oldest one); Buckingham Palace Gardens, adjacent to the royal residence; Green Park; Hyde Park, the largest at 248 hectares (615 acres), and famed for its "soapbox" for public speakers; Kensington Gardens; and Regent's Park, site of the Zoological Gardens and Regent's Canal. Other green spaces include Chelsea Physic Garden, where medicinal herbs and other plants have been grown since the seventeenth century; Kew Gardens, famous for its trees and hothouses; the Hill Gardens; Kenwood; and Battersea Park on the south bank of the Thames.

17. Performing Arts

London, where the plays of William Shakespeare were written and staged, is still the undisputed theater capital of the world. It is home to both venerable traditional companies and cutting-edge experimental troupes. The major established theaters are the Barbican Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company; the Royal Court Theatre, which produced the plays of London's "angry young men" in the 1950s; the Royal National Theatre, which stages productions in three theaters; the historic Drury Lane Theater, which has stood since 1812; and, since 1997, the Globe Theatre, a replica of the Elizabethan theatre where William Shakespeare's plays were performed that stands at the exact site of the original. "Fringe" theater groups present first-rate productions of alternative theater, revivals, musicals, and other contemporary works at the ICA Theatre, the Almeida Theatre (also the site of an annual festival of contemporary music), the Young Vic, and the King's Head.

London is also one of the world's foremost centers for classical music, supporting no fewer than five major symphony orchestras: the London Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Symphony, and the BBC Philharmonic. In addition, the city is home to distinguished choral groups, early music ensembles, and chamber groups. These include the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. One of the world's most famous concert halls is located in Royal Albert Hall, which hosts concerts by a variety of famous figures in the worlds of both classical and popular music, as well as a century-old London musical tradition known as "the Proms," a series of orchestra concerts presented every summer.

Two of London's most famous theaters have undergone major improvements in the 1990s. The Sadler's Wells Theatre, a hundred-year-old-building that is home to opera and dance concerts, was demolished (except for its original facade) and reopened as a redesigned modern facility in 1998. During the same period, the world-famous Royal Opera House in Covent Garden closed for 30 months for a $360 million renovation, reopening in late 1999 with a new foyer, as well as new backstage facilities, new rehearsal rooms, and a studio theater. Royal Opera and Royal Ballet both perform at the facility, whose new rehearsal studios will now make it the permanent home of the Ballet, which formerly rehearsed in other quarters.

18. Libraries and Museums

London's premier library is the British Library, whose collection encompasses some 12 million items, including books, manuscripts, and other materials. Formerly housed in the British Museum, it moved to a newly designed building in St. Pancras in 1996. Among the treasured artifacts contained in the library are two copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, an early-fifteenth-century copy of The Canterbury Tales, and letters, journals, and early editions of famous British literary figures including William Shakespeare.

With over six million visitors a year, the British Museum is London's most popular tourist attraction. From ancient Egyptian statues to the Elgin Marbles to an extensive collection of Japanese prints, the breadth of the museum's collection, begun in 1753, is virtually unrivaled. Its present building was designed in 1847. London's other major museums include the National Gallery, containing Western art from the Middle Ages to the present; the Tate Gallery, specializing in British art; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, devoted to the decorative arts. The Saatchi Gallery is known for its outstanding collection of contemporary (and sometimes controversial) art. The Museum of London traces the city's history; William Hogarth's satirical series The Rake's Progress is housed in Sir John Sloane's Museum; and the National Portrait Gallery features portraits of famous people in British history.

Among London's multitude of other museums are the Design Museum, which focuses on modern design; the Imperial War Museum; the Institute of Contemporary Arts; the Jewish Museum; the London Transport Museum; the popular Museum of the Moving Image, which chronicles the history of movies and television; the Natural History Museum; the Royal Academy of Arts; the Science Museum; and the Theatre Museum.

19. Tourism

London's historic and cultural attractions have made it one of the world's great tourist centers. Over ten million people visit the city annually. Collectively, visitors to London spend over 100 million nights annually in the city's hotels, and more than 200,000 people are directly employed by the tourist industry while tourism indirectly creates employment for many more.

20. Holidays and Festivals

January London Parade
London International Boat Show
London Contemporary Art Fair
Charles I Commemoration

Chinese New Year
Great Spitalfields Pancake Race

St. David's Day
Chelsea Antiques Fair

Easter Parade
Harness Horse Parade
Boat Race, Putney to Mortlake
London Marathon
The Queen's Birthday

National Gardens Scheme

Shakespeare Under the Stars
May Fayre and Puppet Festival
FA Cup Final
Royal Windsor Horse Show
Chelsea Flower Show

Glyndebourne Festival Opera Season

Vodafone Derby Stakes
Grosvenor House Art and Antique Fair
Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition
Royal Ascot Week
Trooping the Colour
Lawn Tennis Championships (Wimbledon)

City of London Festival
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Royal Tournament

Kenwood Lakeside Concerts
Henry Wood Promenade Concerts at Royal
Albert Hall ("the Proms")

Notting Hill Carnival

Chelsea Antiques Fair
Horse of the Year Show

Opening of Parliament

Guy Fawkes Night
Lord Mayor's Procession and Show

Caroling Under the Norwegian Christmas Tree
Watch Night

21. Famous Citizens

Thomas à Becket (11181170), saint and martyr, archbishop of Canterbury.

Poet Geoffrey Chaucer (13431400), author of The Canterbury Tales.

Thomas More (14771535), statesman and author of Utopia.

King Henry VIII (14911547), Tudor king and founder of the Church of England.

Queen Elizabeth I (15331603).

Francis Bacon (15611626), writer and philosopher.

William Shakespeare (15641616), playwright and poet.

Oliver Cromwell (15991658), soldier and statesman, lord protector of England.

Poet John Milton (16081674), author of Paradise Lost.

John Dryden (16311700), poet and literary critic.

Samuel Pepys (16331703), diarist.

Henry Purcell (16591695), composer.

Sir Christopher Wren (16321723), architect.

Alexander Pope (16881744), poet and satirist.

William Hogarth (16971764), painter and engraver.

Samuel Johnson (170984), essayist, critic, and lexicographer.

Sir Joshua Reynolds (172392), portrait painter.

James Boswell (174095), diarist and biographer of Johnson.

William Blake (17571827), poet.

Joseph Turner (17751851), painter, master of landscape art and water-colour.

William Makepeace Thackeray (18111863), novelist.

Charles Dickens (18121870), novelist.

Poets Robert Browning (18121889) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (18061861).

Queen Victoria (18191901).

William Gilbert (18361911), librettist.

Arthur Sullivan (18421900), composer.

Winston Churchill (18741965), prime minister during World War II.

Virginia Woolf (18821941), novelist.

T. S. Eliot (b. United States, 18881965), American-born British poet, critic, and dramatist.

Charlie Chaplin (18891977), screen actor.

Alfred Hitchcock (18891980), movie director.

Margaret Thatcher (b. 1925), prime minister.

Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926), ascended to the throne in 1952.

22. For Further Study


Digital City: London. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

London official internet site. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

This is London. [Online] Available

Time Out London. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

UK for Visitors. [Online] Available (accessed December 20, 1999).

Government Offices

Prime Minister's Office
10 Downing St.
London SW1A 2AA

Home Office
50 Queen Anne's Gate
London SW1H 9AT

Lord Chancellor's Department
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

British Tourist Authority
Thames Tower
Black's Rd.
London W6 9EL
United Kingdom

British Visitor Centre
1 Regent St.
Piccadilly Circus
London SW1Y 4PQ


The Daily Telegraph
1 Canada Sq., Canary Wharf
London, E14 5DT

The Guardian
119 Farrington Rd.
London, EC1R 3ER

The Sun
Virginia St.
London E1 9XJ

The Times
Virginia St.
London, E1 9XT


Bradley, Simon and Nikolaus Pevsner. London: The City Churches. London: Penguin Books, 1998.

Butler, Brian. London for Free: Hundreds of Free Things to Do in London. 3rd rev. ed. Memphis, TN: Mustang Publishing, 1997.

Clout, Hugh, ed. The Times London History Atlas. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Collin, Francesca. The Arts & Entertainment in London. New York: Sterling Publishing, 1997.

Davies, Andrew. Literary London. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.

Duncan, Andrew. Walking London: Thirty Original Walks in and around London. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1994.

Edel, Leon. Bloomsbury: A House of Lions. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1979.

Hall, Peter. London 2001. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

Hendershott, Barbara Sloan, and Alzina Stone Dale. Mystery Reader's Walking Guide, London. 2nd ed. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1996.

Howes, Karen. Living in London. Photographs by Simon Upton. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999.

Kureishi, Hanif. London Kills Me: Three Screenplays and Four Essays. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.

Lain, Larry, and Michael Lain. London for Families. New York: Interlink Books, 1997.

Parnell, Geoffrey. Book of the Tower of London. London: B.T. Batsford, 1993.

Porter, Roy. London: A Social History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Weinreb, Ben, and Christopher Hibbert. London Encyclopaedia. Rev. ed. London: MacMillan, 1993.

Young, Ken, and Patricia L. Garside. Metropolitan London, Politics and Urban Change, 18371981. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1982.


views updated May 29 2018


LONDON , capital of *England and seat of what has always been the largest Jewish community in the country.

Medieval Period

There is no reliable evidence for the presence of Jews in London until after the close of the Saxon period. After the Norman Conquest of 1066, a few Jews, attracted by the economic opportunities that now offered themselves, came over from the adjacent areas of the continent (in the first instance presumably from the duchy of Normandy, including *Rouen) and established themselves in London. The earliest recorded mention of the London community dates from the reign of William Rufus (1087–1100), who appears to have favored the Jews to some extent. In his reign, a religious *disputation took place at Westminster between the abbot and a Jew from Mainz who did business with the abbey. A Jewish quarter (vicus Judaeorum) is first mentioned in the Terrier of St. Paul's (c. 1128). In 1130 the Jews of London were accused of killing a sick man – possibly some sort of *blood libel – and were forced to pay the then enormous fine of £2,000. Intellectual life in the period was sufficiently flourishing to attract a visit from Abraham *Ibn Ezra, who wrote his Iggeret ha-Shabbat and his Yesod Mora in London in 1158. Until 1177 the relative importance of the community was so great that its cemetery served the whole of Anglo-Jewry.

During the reign of Henry ii (1154–89), the community flourished and was augmented by fresh arrivals from abroad. The anti-Jewish riots which broke out at the coronation of Richard i (Sept. 3, 1189) began at Westminster and soon spread to London, where the Jewish quarter was set afire and 30 persons died – including the tosafist R. *Jacob of Orleans. The community soon recovered, however, and in 1194 contributed approximately one quarter to the levy raised by the Jews of the country toward the king's ransom. The reorganization which was then undertaken by the Ordinance of the Jewry confirmed London as the administrative center for the communities of the country. The first *archpresbyter of the Jews of England under the new system was Jacob of London. Anti-Jewish feeling again manifested itself in London during the reign of John (1199–1216) who rebuked the mayor on that account. The baronial opposition, both in his reign and in that of his son Henry iii (1216–72), considered the Jews, not without justification, to be royal financial instruments and maltreated them accordingly. There was a baronial attack on London Jewry in 1215.

During the period of maladministration under Henry iii, the Jews of London, with those of the rest of the country, were oppressed and mulcted of enormous sums. The climax came in 1244 when it was alleged that some gashes found on the body of a dead child constituted Hebrew characters and the Jews were accused of ritual murder. This resulted in a savage punitive levy on the Jews of the realm to the amount of 60,000 marks. On the outbreak of the Barons' War (1263–65), they suffered greatly at the hands of the insurgents under Simon de Montfort. During Easter week 1263, as the result of a trivial dispute between a Jew and a citizen concerning interest on a debt, the Jewry was sacked and several of its inhabitants killed. Later, on hearing a report that the Jews had manufactured Greek fire for the royal troops, Simon de Montfort returned to London and put the Jewry systematically to the sword. In 1266, another attack was made by the so-called "disinherited knights" on the remnants of the community, who sought refuge in the Tower of London.

The Jews of London profited from the period of pacification which followed the war. Edward i'sStatutum de Judaismo of 1275, however, which prohibited Jewish moneylending, inevitably drove some into dishonest ways of making a living. In 1278 a number of London Jews were included in the 680 from all over the country who were imprisoned in the Tower of London on the charge of clipping the coinage. Nearly 300 are said to have been hanged (though this figure has been doubted). In the meantime, theological odium against the London Jews had been increasing. In 1232 Henry iii confiscated their principal synagogue on the pretext that the chanting could be heard in a neighboring church. In the same year he founded the London *Domus Conversorum to encourage conversions. A further ritual murder accusation was followed by a civic order restricting the Jews henceforth to houses in the Jewry (1281). In 1283 the bishop of London ordered all the synagogues in his diocese to be closed, only one being subsequently reopened. Finally, in 1290, the Jews were expelled from England and the London community ceased to exist.

The number of Jews in London in the Middle Ages probably did not exceed 500, though contemporary Jewish writers speak of 2,000 households. The original Jewish quarter, which contained a number of strong stone houses, was situated in and near what is still known as the Old Jewry. In the 12th century, the Jews began to give up their houses here and to move a little distance westward, where the Church of St. Laurence Jewry commemorates their residence. The cemetery was in what is now known as Jewin Street and the surrounding area. Prominent medieval London scholars included Joseph b. Jacob, known as "Rubi Gotsce" (fl. 1130–60), the host of Abraham Ibn Ezra and the outstanding English Jew of his day, *Jacob b. Judah, of London (late 13th century), author of Eẓ Ḥayyim, R. Moses of London (d. 1268), grammarian and halakhist, and his son the illustrious *Elijah Menahem of London (d. 1284), who also enjoyed considerable repute as a physician.

Middle Period

The Domus Conversorum, established by Henry iii in 1232, housed nearly 100 converts at the period of the expulsion, and never remained entirely empty in subsequent years. There was a constant, though slender, stream to London of poor foreign Jews who qualified for emoluments by the formal adoption of Christianity. In addition, a few isolated Jews visited London without being baptized: for example, the physicians Elias b. Sabbetai (Sabot) of Bologna, who came in 1410 with ten followers to attend Henry iv, and Master Samson de Mirabeau who attended the wife of Richard Whittington, mayor of London, in 1409. After the expulsions from Spain and Portugal, a few Marrano refugees settled in London. At the close of the reign of Henry viii, the crypto-Jewish community comprised some 37 householders, and religious services were held in the house of one Alves Lopes to whom newly arrived fugitives would come for assistance and advice. In 1542, the group was disturbed in consequence of disclosures made during proceedings against Marrano fugitives on the continent. It was largely dispersed as a result of the Catholic reaction in the reign of Mary. Under Elizabeth, however, it attained again significant proportions. One of its leading members was Roderigo *Lopez, the queen's physician. When an envoy of Alvaro Mendes (Solomon *Abenaes), duke of Mytilene, was in London on an official mission in 1592, services were held at his house. Toward the end of the century, the importance of the secret community diminished, and in 1609 the Portuguese merchants living in London, who were suspected of Judaizing, were again expelled.

Resettlement Period

Nevertheless, when in 1632 the Marrano community of Rouen was temporarily broken up, some fugitives, the most important being Antonio Fernandez *Carvajal, found a home in London. Other Marrano settlers went directly from Spain and Portugal. Thus, when *Manasseh Ben Israel went to England in 1655, there was already established a secret community numbering several families. Though the Whitehall Conference convened by Oliver *Cromwell in December 1655 proved abortive, they were emboldened to begin organizing their religious life on a more formal basis. A petition was presented to Cromwell asking for protection (March 1656). A house was rented and adapted for use as a synagogue in the following December. A few months later, a piece of ground was acquired for use as a cemetery. After Cromwell's death various attempts were made to procure the suppression of the community. Charles ii, however, intervened in its favor, and it henceforth enjoyed de facto recognition. The original synagogue, in Creechurch Lane, was enlarged and remodeled in 1674, and in 1701 a new place of worship in Bevis Marks – still one of the architectural monuments of the city – was erected.

As its spiritual leaders, the newly established community appointed a succession of foreign scholars. They were Jacob *Sasportas (1664–65), who fled because of the great plague of London, in which several members of his flock perished, Joshua da *Silva (1670–79), Jacob *Abendana (1681–85), Solomon *Aylion (1689–1701), and David *Nieto (1701–28). The congregation was continually reinforced by fresh Marrano refugees from Spain and Portugal. After the accession of William of Orange (1689), there was a considerable influx of Spanish and Portuguese Jews from Holland. The majority of the communal magnates at this time were brokers, importers, and wholesale merchants, with a sprinkling of physicians. In the course of the reorganization of the Royal Exchange in 1697, it was arranged to admit 12 Jews – the so-called "Jew brokers" who remained a feature of the City of London until the beginning of the 19th century. In order to secure the favor of the lord mayor, a purse containing 50 guineas was presented to him each year on a valuable piece of plate by the elders of the congregation.

Meanwhile, the original Sephardi settlers had been followed by Ashkenazim who arrived for the most part via Amsterdam or Hamburg. They organized their own congregation around 1690, and in 1696 a burial ground for their use was purchased by the wealthy Benjamin *Levy. The first rabbi of the congregation, Judah Loeb b. Ephraim Anschel ha-Kohen, subsequently of Rotterdam, left as a result of internal dissensions. His place was taken, first by R. Aaron b. Moses the Scribe, of Dublin, and then by R. Uri Phoebus b. Naphtali Hirsch, known as Aaron *Hart. The latter's brother, Moses Hart, was the maecenas of the community. In 1722 he reconstructed the synagogue in Duke's Place. Further enlargement and reconstruction took place in 1766 and in 1790. In 1706 a secession had taken place in the Ashkenazi community, headed by Mordecai b. Moses of Hamburg, called Marcus Moses (a son-in-law of Glueckel von Hameln). This led to the organization of a rival body, which constructed its own synagogue (known as the Hambro' Synagogue) in 1726. The historic synagogal organization of the metropolis was completed in 1761, when another rival body, still called the New Synagogue, came into existence.

The primacy of the parent body (by now known as the Great Synagogue) was, however, generally recognized – not only by the other Ashkenazi communities in London, but also by those which had by now sprung up elsewhere in the country. R. Aaron Hart was followed in the rabbinate by R. Hirschell *Levin, known in England as Hart Lyon (1758–64), R. David Tevele *Schiff (1765–91), R. Moses Myers (who also officiated at the New Synagogue (1792–1802)), and R. Solomon *Hirschell, son of Hart Lyon (1802–42), who was the first formally recognized chief rabbi of the Ashkenazi communities of the whole of England. The Ashkenazim were by now the most numerous and influential element in the London Jewish population. The lower classes, however, mainly peddlers and dealers in old clothes, who were mostly recently arrived immigrants, were not greatly esteemed. P. Colquhoun, in his Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis (1800), asserted that they were responsible for a disproportionate amount of petty crime.

The 19th century was a period of expansion and reorganization. The first synagogue outside the City (later the Western Synagogue) had been organized in Westminster around 1761. The Borough Synagogue, on the south side of the river, owed its origin to a minyan begun about the middle of the 18th century. The board for shehitah, in which Sephardim and Ashkenazim cooperated, was organized through the advocacy of Baron Lyon de Symons in 1792–1804.

As early as 1760, the Sephardi community admitted representatives of the Ashkenazim to their committee of deputados, which was appointed from time to time to represent the community vis-à-vis the government. This ultimately developed into the *Board of Deputies of British Jews, on which, until 1838, only the London communities were represented. The old talmud torah of the Ashkenazi community, established in 1732 and placed on a broader basis in 1788, was reorganized in 1817 as the Jews' Free School, originally intended to meet the menace presented by the schools which were now being set up for Jewish children by Christian conversionists; this developed in due course into one of the largest schools in Europe. The struggle for Jewish *emancipation in England centered in London. In 1831 Jews were admitted to the freedom of the city, and hence to the privilege of carrying on retail trade, from which they had hitherto been barred. In 1835, David *Salomons was elected a sheriff of the city, the first Jew to attain that distinction. In 1847 he was the first Jewish alderman, and in 1855 the first Jewish lord mayor of London. From 1830 the City of London had shown sympathy with Parliamentary emancipation of the Jews, and its persistence in electing Baron Lionel de *Rothschild, notwithstanding the fact that he could not take his seat because of the form of the statutory oath, was in a large measure responsible for the admission of the Jews to Parliament in 1858.

The growing Anglicization of London Jewry hastened the reorganization of the community. A Reform congregation was established, nearer the fashionable centers of population in 1840. To meet this challenge, both the Sephardi and the Ashkenazi congregations established branch synagogues in the West End. Nathan Marcus *Adler, appointed in 1844, initiated a new period in the history of the Chief Rabbinate. Under his auspices, a modern theological seminary, *Jews' College, was founded in 1855, and a model charitable organization, the Board of Guardians for the Relief of the Jewish Poor, was established in 1859. In 1870 a union of the principal Ashkenazi congregations of the metropolis was formed under the title, the "*United Synagogue." Newer congregations in other parts of the metropolis later attached themselves to this organization, which is now perhaps the largest and the best organized of its kind in the world.

With the mass emigration from Russia which started after 1881, there was a great influx especially to London, and the population rose in the course of the next quarter of a century from some 47,000 to approximately 150,000, of whom about 100,000 lived in the East End. Thus, alongside the more or less "native" community, a new, essentially foreign, community grew up. A majority of the newcomers was absorbed by the tailoring, shoemaking, and cabinetmaking industries. Fresh charities were created to meet their requirements. A Yiddish press and an active trade union movement came into being. Numerous minor synagogues, with their related institutions, were created. In 1887 Sir Samuel Montagu (later Lord Swaythling) created the Federation of Synagogues to coordinate their religious activities. The strike of 10,000 Jewish tailors in London in 1889, lasting for six weeks, attracted great attention and ended the period of the unmitigated exploitation of the Jewish immigrants. The Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, as well as the various inquiries into slum life, dealt to a large extent with the conditions of the new Jewish life which had sprung up in the East End of London, and was arousing some antagonisms. The Aliens Act of 1905 stemmed the tide of immigration, though it continued in modified form until the outbreak of World War i in 1914. The Jew of the East End, as he became more well-to-do, tended to move away to the newer suburbs, particularly in the northeast (Stamford Hill) and northwest (Golders Green), where important congregations sprang up. The progress of the Reform movement, indeed, was comparatively slow, though the radical Liberal Jewish Synagogue, which grew out of the Jewish Religious Union (1902), was established in 1910.

The period between the two wars witnessed a considerable economic and geographical expansion of London Jewry, as it attained a greater degree of well-being, extended its interests, and hastened the movement from the traditional center of the East End into the northern suburbs. At the same time, there was some degree of organizational consolidation. The United Synagogue, in particular, extended its activities. A communal center for the major London Jewish institutions and a Jewish museum were established at Woburn House in the Bloomsbury area. The beginning of the persecutions in Germany in 1933 brought about a considerable influx of refugees who did a good deal to stimulate certain aspects of London Jewish life and to consolidate the organization of the extreme Orthodox wing.

Antisemitic movements were active during the 1930s, notably Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. The "Blackshirt" march through London's East End in October 1936 provoked massive disorders which led to the Public Order Act banning the political use of uniforms. The Mosleyites' march left a deep impression on the consciousness of London Jewry.

[Cecil Roth]

Postwar Period


Between the two world wars, London Jewry experienced its first substantial population shift from the East End, a trend heightened during World War ii, when, due to long periods of enemy bombing and extensive damage to the inner districts of London, Jews (together with the rest of the population) moved in large numbers to less vulnerable areas further from the center. With a rise in the standard of living in Britain, considerable urban renewal and suburban development took place.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Jews, who by this time had generally risen rapidly on the socioeconomic scale, settled in ever-increasing numbers in suburban areas, particularly in the north and northwest of London. It has been estimated that the East End, which at the beginning of the 20th century contained about 125,000 Jews and in 1929 still had some 85,000 Jews, was left with no more than 30,000 Jews within a few years after World War ii. The northwest London area alone was said to have contained some 85,000 Jews by 1950. The vast majority of Jews always lived to the north of the Thames, and by the end of the 1960s they were spread along and below a suburban arc stretching from Wembley, Harrow, Stanmore, and Edgware in the west through Finchley and Palmers Green in the north to Ilford in the east. Below this arc were heavy concentrations of Jews in what may be termed "gilded ghettos," such as Golders Green, or semi-decaying "zones of transition," such as Stamford Hill, where newer non-Jewish immigrants settled in the 1960s in increasing numbers. The total Jewish population of Greater London in 1970 was estimated at 280,000. (For figures for the mid-1990s, see below.)

The pattern of settlement and the movement of London Jewry were of particular importance for their effect on Jewish identification. Evidence suggests that throughout the 20th century, the directions of the major shifts were strongly influenced by developments in transport facilities vis-à-vis the place of work, that is the industrial and commercial areas in the city. The fanning out of the transport system and the improvement in highways, however, made incursions into the traditional pattern of settlement symbolized by the Jewish district. Whereas some of the new suburbs were still thickly inhabited by Jews – Edgware with 10,000 Jews representing 40% of the local population was a case in point – in 1970 there were larger numbers of Jews living in a more scattered fashion away from Jewish districts and throughout the Home Counties in and around Greater London. Not only was the lack of proximity to Jewish centers and the negative effects of living in predominantly non-Jewish areas bound to affect the identification of such Jews, but the problem also arose of how to cater to this more fluid and spread-out Jewish population fromthe organizational point of view.


Most observers of Anglo-Jewish life highlighted the fact that the community was over-organized, a situation that led to duplication, inefficiency, and waste. The organizational aspect of communal life came to the fore even more starkly in the case of London Jewry, first because it contained the headquarters of many organizations catering to Anglo-Jewry as a whole (e.g., Board of Deputies of British Jews, Anglo-Jewish Association, Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men, National Union of Hebrew Teachers, Jewish Initiation Society, Central British Fund for Jewish Relief, and so on), and secondly because the problems of organizational efficiency were greater in a large community, particularly one which had become more scattered. The latter point may best be illustrated by the fields of religious and educational organization. The closing of some synagogues in the older areas of London in the late 1960s, such as the branches of the United Synagogue in Dalston and Bayswater, was more than compensated by the construction of new synagogues in the many areas where Jews settled in the postwar period and more recent years. A proliferation of synagogues was further brought about by the fact that all the main synagogal bodies representing the various streams had their own building programs. Thus, most of the 200 synagogues in London belonged to the five major synagogal organizations. A somewhat similar situation obtained for day schools, which were in the hands of the London Board of Jewish Religious Education, the Zionist Federation, the Jewish Secondary Schools Movement, Yesodei Hatorah Schools, and the Lubavitch Foundation, plus a number of independent schools.

By contrast, there was greater efficiency and centralization in London in the sphere of welfare work. The London Jewish Welfare Board, which operated 19 homes for the aged and a host of other services for the needy, was the largest Jewish welfare institution in the country. London also had numerous societies concerned with the amelioration of physical and mental handicaps, e.g., the Jewish Blind Society, the Jewish Deaf Association, schools for the mentally retarded and handicapped children, and Jewish hospitals. The various charitable institutions, friendly societies, and professional associations added further to the well-being of London Jews. The younger generation of the community was well provided for by the large number of youth clubs and societies, including some famous ones such as the Jewish Lads' Brigade (founded in 1895), the Brady Club (1896), and the Bernhard Baron Settlement (1914). The renewal and improvement of premises in the form of Jewish youth centers, however, progressed slowly. The large number of Jewish students in London, for instance, was provided by B'nai B'rith with a new and much enlarged Hillel House only in 1970. Finally, London Jewry had a whole array of Zionist organizations and a large number of bodies supporting Israel institutions (in 1970 there were 65 such organizations in London, most with branches in provincial communities).

culture and religious life

The leading part played by London Jewry in English Jewish life was particularly apparent in the cultural sphere. The largest number of publications on Jewish themes – newspapers, magazines, journals, or books – emanated from London, which also had ten libraries and museums with Jewish collections open to the public. The permanent residence of the chief rabbi engaged by the United Synagogue, the largest synagogal body in the country with a membership of 40,000 and 80 synagogues, further added to London's leading position. These factors generally had the effect of centralizing the administration of communal affairs. Thus, the Chief Rabbinate and its bet din tended to administer the religious life of large sections of provincial Jewry through other battei din and rabbis. The two leading bodies dealing with religious education, the London Board of Jewish Education and the Central Council for Jewish Religious Education dealing with the provinces, both operated from London. The pattern was similar in the political and philanthropic spheres. However, after World War ii, and particularly in the 1960s, there was a growing trend toward decentralization. For example, the second largest synagogal body, the Federation of Synagogues, with 17,000 members in some 50 branches, as well as the smaller religious groups, i.e., the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, the Reform and Liberal movements, and the Sephardim, set up independent battei din. Growing decentralization was also manifest in other fields, including Jewish education, despite efforts, mainly from the center, to maintain some overall organizational unity in the Jewish community of Britain.

London's position appeared even less formidable when a number of other important facts were taken into account. Although strict Orthodoxy made important strides there, particularly through the growing strength of the ḥasidic groups in the Stamford Hill area, the largest and most successful yeshivah was in the small provincial community of Gateshead in the northeast corner of England. As for Jewish day schools, Manchester undoubtedly took the leading position. However, when London Jewry was set in the proper perspective in relation to the rest of Britain's Jewish community, it became clear that it was a very strong force not only in that community but in world Jewry.

[Ernest Krausz]

Later Developments

Since the readmission of 1656 London has been the home of the largest Jewish community in Britain. In keeping with general demographic trends, the size and spread of London Jewry has changed since the 1970s. In terms of displacement London Jewry now constitutes "selected communities" as opposed to being a single entity. Greater London has expanded to include parts of Hertfordshire, Surrey, and Essex. Jewish migration within the capital has followed that expansion, in many instances crossing the green belt. There are now burgeoning communities in Radlett, Kingston, and Buckhurst Hill, districts which only 50 years ago had little or no Jewish presence. Within this area the largest concentration is located in the northwest London borough of Barnet. The second largest community is congregated to the east of London, in the borough of Redbridge. The Jewish community of Redbridge has access to London's only non-synagogue-based Jewish center.

Since 1970 London Jewry has expanded geographically but decreased numerically. The downward trend has been consistent since 1975, at which time the Jewish population numbered 221,000; by 1988 that figure had been reduced to 210,000, and by 2002 to 195,000. Overall the Jewish population of Britain fell from an all-time high of 420,000 in 1950 to 300,000 in 2002. The decline is attributable to a combination of factors: an excess of deaths over births, general social erosion as a result of increasing intermarriage, social and geographic movements away from community, and emigration.

During the 1990s London saw a continuation of the trend away from Jewish traditional central Orthodox synagogue membership toward both Progressive Judaism on the left and Ultra-Orthodox on the right. Mainstream Orthodoxy also lost members to the Masorti movement which was established in 1985 by Rabbi Louis Jacobs. There were six Masorti synagogues within the Greater London area.

The London Jewish community is still served by a broad range of welfare organizations though recently there has been a movement toward rationalization following the amalgamation of the Jewish Blind Society and the Jewish Welfare Board, plus a number of other small societies, into Jewish Care. This organization provides daily for over 5,000 needy individuals and their families. Plans are also in the pipeline to merge the capital's two major Jewish child care institutions, Norwood and Ravenswood. London's expanding elderly community is provided for by a number of residential homes which offer both independent and full-care facilities. One of the largest is Nightingale House (Home for Aged Jews) in southwest London, which accommodates over 400 residents.

[Anne J. Kershen]

Hebrew Printing

Some Hebrew printing on wood blocks appeared in works printed in London from 1524, when a few isolated words and phrases figured in R. *Wakefield's Oratio de utilitate… trium linguarum. Movable Hebrew type was apparently first used in 1563 in W. Musculus' Common Places of Christian Religion, and consecutive Hebrew printing (a 14-line "sonnet") appeared in 1588 in a single-sheet broadside of poems in various languages by Theodore Beza celebrating the defeat of the Spanish Armada. In the 17th century a few books mainly or partly in Hebrew were published by Christian Hebraists, such as a Hebrew text of Psalms (1643), a vocalized text of Avot (1651), and Bryan *Walton's Polyglot Bible (1653–57). Communal controversies in the early 18th century produced the first Hebrew publications printed for (though not by) Jews, particularly the dispute that raged around haham David *Nieto's disputed Orthodoxy (1705) and a dispute concerning a divorce two years later (Aaron Hart's crudely produced Urimve-Tummim, 1707). In 1714 – 15, some works by Moses Hagiz and Joseph *Ergas aimed against the Shabbateans appeared in London, presumably because of the unfavorable atmosphere in Amsterdam; and in the same year Nieto's classical Matteh Dan was brought out by Thomas Ilive's printing house in three editions – in Spanish alone, Spanish and Hebrew, and Hebrew alone. Thereafter there was a long hiatus in London Hebrew printing, though Ephraim *Luzzatto's poems Elleh Benei ha-Ne'urim appeared there in 1766 with a reprint in 1768. In 1770, printing by and for Jews at last began, possibly in consequence of the removal of some trade restriction. A consortium of Jewish printers from Amsterdam (who, however, failed after a few years) set up a printing house which produced ambitious editions of the Jewish liturgy (3 vols., 1770; other eds., 1771, 1785) and many other works. Simultaneously, A. *Alexander began his printing activity which was continued by his son Levi (mainly liturgical works) well into the 19th century. Other printers, Jewish and non-Jewish, appeared in the following years. In 1820 J. Wertheimer set up his Hebrew press, which was active for over a century, subsequently under the name of Williams, Lea, and Company. With the increase in the London Jewish population, especially after the emigration from Eastern Europe from the 1880s onward, Jewish printers and printing in London proliferated, though learned works were mainly produced at the presses of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

[Cecil Roth]


Roth, Mag Bibl, index; idem, England, index; Lehmann, Nova Bibl, index; E.N. Adler, [History of the Jews in] London (1930); M. Gaster, History of the Ancient Synagogue… Bevis Marks (1901); C. Roth, Federation of Synagogues (1947); idem, Great Synagogue, London, 16901940 (1950); A.B. Levy, East End Story (1951); A.M. Hyamson, Sephardim of England (1951); idem, London Board for Shechita, 18041954 (1954); V.D. Lipman, Social History of the Jews in England (1954); idem, Century of Social Service (1959); idem, in: jhset, 21 (1968), 78–103; idem, (ed.), Three Centuries of Anglo-Jewish History (1961); A. Barnett, Western Synagogue through Two Centuries (1961); idem, in: jhset, 20 (1964), 1–50; S. Stein, ibid., 63–82; A. Rubens, in: J.M. Shaftesley (ed.), Remember the Days (1966), 181–205; A. Ziderman, in: jjso, 8 (1966), 240–64; E. Krausz, ibid., 10 (1968), 83–100; 11 (1969), 75–95, 151–63; R. Apple, Hampstead Synagogue (1967); A.S. Diamond, in: jhset, 21 (1968), 39–63; C. Bermant, Troubled Eden (1969); J. Gould and S. Esh (eds.), Jewish Life in Modern Britain (1964); C. Duschinsky, Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, London, from 17561842 (1921, 19712).


views updated May 17 2018


population growth and expansion
london's economy
metropolitan culture

London is located in southeast Britain, inland from the North Sea at a point where the Thames River could be bridged. Founded by the Romans in the first century c.e. as a trading center, London provided easy communications by water and land, and it quickly became an important marketplace. London's fortunes have always been linked to empire, first that of the Romans, and much later, that of the British crown. Connected by sea to colonies in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific, it is the most international of Britain's cities, leading a worldwide exchange of goods, people, and information. A spiderweb of turnpikes, canals, and, after 1840, railroads made London the kingdom's central place. In 1800, London was Britain's biggest city, its most important port, its political and cultural capital, and its largest manufacturing center. To quote the novelist Henry James (1843–1916), "for the real London-lover the mere immensity of the place is a large part of its savour." Its dominance of Great Britain, combined with the political and economic importance of the United Kingdom, made London the most influential city in the world during the nineteenth century.

population growth and expansion

Between 1800 and 1900, Greater London's population rose from over 1,000,000 to 6,600,000; by 1900, one of every five people in England and Wales lived in the capital. Early in the century, growth rates reached 20 percent per decade, an explosive pace of increase by any standard. By 1810, London had become the world's largest city, outstripping the Japanese capital of Edo. Inhabitants found it impossible to know all London's different neighborhoods and districts.

London's rapid expansion was all the more remarkable because of the capital's high death rates. In the eighteenth century, the capital served as "the national reservoir of infections." People, especially infants, died from smallpox, fever, measles, and consumption at a higher rate than those living in rural areas or smaller towns; Londoners born in the first half of the eighteenth century had an average life expectancy of only thirty-five years. But after 1750, improved nutrition and cleanliness, as well as inoculation against smallpox, led to slow declines in mortality, and the trend continued. Births approximately balanced deaths in the metropolis by 1800, and outnumbered them after 1810. In later decades, advances in sanitation and water cleanliness cut the death rate still more. Even without major advances in medical care, improvements in living conditions in the capital made it no longer a deathtrap for its residents.

Much of London's growth, however, came through migration. Thousands of young people walked or rode into the metropolis every year, most coming from the south and east of England, although the capital attracted northerners, Scots, and Welsh, too. Almost 50,000 Irish came to London during the 1840s, the decade of the Potato Famine. London attracted aristocrats and actors, bricklayers and beggars. Foreign sailors jumped ship in the port; Irish arrived to work as servants or dock laborers. Merchants from around the world settled in London to trade. Because many passed through too quickly to be counted in any statistical record, the total number of immigrants and emigrants to the capital is unknown. But between 1851 and 1861, around 286,000 new residents arrived and remained long enough to be counted in a census, representing about 10 percent of the metropolitan population. Because migrants tend to follow kin or neighbors, London sheltered a string of migrant communities of British, as well as foreign, origin. Irish enclaves grew up in the East End, in Central London, and in Bermondsey. Italians congregated in Holborn, and the French in Soho. When East European Jews flocked to London in the late nineteenth century, most settled in Whitechapel, in the East End. In 1891, over 3 percent of the London population was foreign born, and an additional 3 percent came from Scotland or Ireland.

But the outflow was high too. Between 1851 and 1861, over 100,000 people born in London left to settle in other parts of England and Wales; tens of thousands of others moved from the capital overseas. Some people lived in London seasonally; others came for a few years to study or to work before marriage. The flow of people in and out of the metropolis never ceased, making London residence something shared by a substantial proportion of the British population.

This rapidly growing population needed housing. By 1800, the rush to build for newcomers had already produced suburbs of largely middle-class residents. Businessmen commuted daily from villas on the outskirts of the city to offices in the center. Aristocratic landlords worked with developers to cover their estates with terrace housing. Thomas Cubitt (1788–1855), the greatest builder of the Victorian period, worked with the Duke of Westminster to lay out Belgravia and Pimlico. Royal land converted into public parks encouraged development of the West End, London's most fashionable address.

Changes in transportation made possible the rush from the center, which by century's end included workers as well as the middle class. Horse-drawn stage coaches, omnibuses, and, later, trolleys brought thousands into town daily. By the 1870s, routes crossed London north to south and east to

Population of Greater London, 1801–1921
source: Mitchell, pp. 25, 30, 33
England and Wales8,893,00017,928,00032,528,00037,887,000

west. The railways provided a second mode of intra-London travel after the major railway lines completed their London stations. During the second half of the nineteenth century, companies built new approach lines into the metropolis and new bridges to bring trains into central London stations. Adding the tracks, however, meant subtracting scandalous amounts of workers' housing, for which few replacements were built. Over 100,000 people found themselves displaced by railway construction in London during the second half of the century, and many could not afford to relocate into outer areas. The fever to expand the metropolis came at a high cost.

London's growth outran the capital's ability to cope with added numbers. Foul air, tainted water, stinking refuse heaps, and legions of street-people shocked respectable visitors. In 1819, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) wrote "Hell is a city much like London." It took much of the second half of the century to clean up the mess. Sir John Simon (1816–1904), Medical Officer of Health for the City of London, attacked cesspits and substandard housing. He succeeded in increasing water supplies, combatting dirt and stinks. By the mid-1850s, all metropolitan districts had hired similar medical officers to improve local sanitation. They inspected lodging houses, quarantined the contagious, and tried to close down sources of pollution. Slowly local government cleaned up the capital.

london's economy

During the period when the British economy industrialized, London kept its position as the country's largest manufacturing center. Although not a conventional factory town, the capital housed the country's largest stock of highly skilled workers. They produced luxury goods for the elite, staples for the metropolitan population, and industrial goods linked to the port and its trade. Artisans, who had been the core of the old regime economy, kept their importance in many crafts, giving London a competitive edge in fields as diverse as printing, watchmaking, tailoring, and hat making. Luxury goods—silk textiles, fine clothing, silver products—poured from London workshops. If London was a vast department store, the river was its service entrance, where thousands spent their days loading and unloading to meet deadlines.

London had an enormous service sector. The capital needed office workers, clerks, and administrators, and it attracted increasing numbers of professionals. The metropolis remained the world's financial and trading capital until the 1940s, when New York took over that primary position. The central players in the London economy were not the manufacturers, but the "gentlemanly capitalists"—directors of the East India Company or bankers such as Alexander Baring (1774–1848) and Nathan Meyer Rothschild (1777–1836). Commerce and trade outranked the city's contribution to British industrial production. The special quality of the metropolitan economy is most easily seen by measuring the capital's contribution to national employment. In 1851, when workers in the capital accounted for only 13.7 percent of the employed population of England and Wales, Londoners dominated the banking industry (41 percent), the professions (27 percent), and government service (27 percent).

Women's trades differed significantly from those of their male relatives. For the most part, females produced clothing—dresses, hats, shirts, and shoes—or small home-produced goods. Excluded from apprenticeships and the guilds, women worked in skilled occupations alongside their husbands or made simple goods in their homes for middlemen who paid starvation wages. The most common women's job in the capital was that of domestic servant, which gave women room, board, and a tiny wage in return for unregulated hours of household drudgery. Those few with a secondary education could become teachers or governesses. Not until late in the century did many administrative or clerical positions become open to women.

London Occupations among Employed Population, 1861
OccupationMales PercentFemales PercentTotal
source: Green, p. 18.
Labor (Unspecified)
Professional, Administrative7.94.17.1
Transport, Distribution18.70.114.7

Manufacturers in the metropolis had to confront rising costs and competition from northern British firms, as well as European and North American rivals. London was a high wage, high rent site in which to produce goods. Moreover, technological changes favored mass production, which required more space, always at a premium in central London. To cut costs, some firms moved farther out; others left London for provincial cities. Between 1870 and 1914, the London economy experienced steady economic decline. Clothing and furniture manufacturers coped by lowering wages and quality, pushing production of cheap and shoddy goods into workers' homes, thereby eliminating the expense of rent, heat, and light.

The Second Industrial Revolution, built on electricity and internal combustion engines, helped the London manufacturing economy to modernize in the late nineteenth century. London's comparative advantage in skilled labor and ready consumers encouraged entrepreneurs to locate in the southeast, and the new technology provided power. Electrified, underground railway lines reached far outside central London to offer commuters easy access to the center at low cost. Electric trams, which were cheap, fast, and large, supplanted horse-drawn omnibuses. With better transport services, the effective metropolitan area exploded again in size. The capital became "Greater London," stretching northward into the Lea Valley, westward through the county of Middlesex, and beyond Greenwich to the east. In rapidly growing outer regions, new firms producing cars, tools, and chemicals multiplied. The southeast became a national center for electrical and general engineering. Linked by road, canal, and sea to the rest of the country and the empire, a London location again made sense for the savvy entrepreneur. By 1914, London and the southeast had again become the most prosperous, progressive region of Great Britain.


London had a social geography that paralleled its physical divisions. As the city grew, more and more of the middle classes, who could afford to commute to work and who preferred privacy to over-crowded central districts, left central and eastern parishes for western areas or the suburbs. The fashionable West End was launched by a spectacularly successful town planning scheme paid for by the central government. In the eighteenth century, George III (r. 1760–1820) traded royal lands in West London for cash, and the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, encouraged by George IV (r. 1820–1830), decided to support building in the area by improving access and adding greenery. John Nash (1752–1835), a government architect, produced the grand design, which resulted in an elegant north-south street, a park, a canal, as well as Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. Built around 1820, Regent Street blocked access to the west from the slums of Soho and gave fashionable London a place to shop. Speculative builders, recognizing a growing demand for upscale housing, rushed to develop vacant land to the west.

Meanwhile, the East End became an industrial area and disproportionately the residence of the poor. Immigrants and people practicing nasty trades crowded into crumbling houses on mean streets. After surveying the population of the East End in the late 1880s, Charles Booth (1840–1916), ship owner and sociologist, decided that 35 percent had incomes either on the poverty line or so low that "decent life is not imaginable." Districts to the east of the Tower of London had the highest death rates and the worst housing in London. Smells from tanneries and noise from street vendors drove out the genteel, leaving behind workers who needed to be close to their jobs. Slaughterhouses shared space with railway tunnels and tumble-down tenements. Many contemporaries compared eastern districts to the unknown territories of the British Empire and their inhabitants to "savages." Such comments reflected the increasing social distance of rich and poor, as distance bred fear and condemnation. Contemporaries identified the East End with crime and prostitution. The century's most famous murders, the stabbing deaths by Jack the Ripper, took place in Whitechapel in 1888. During the nineteenth century, the contrast between slum and suburb had moral connotations, in addition to economic ones.

Crime, however, could not be confined to the East End. Streetwalkers and burglars could be found in every London district. Pickpockets frequented West End theaters and the railway stations. Riverside areas sheltered smugglers, river pirates, and mudlarks—thieving children who stole from ships. Londoners feared that the city sheltered a "criminal class," or a criminal subculture whose members shunned honest work in favor of preying upon the unwary. Criminals were those who would not work, and they needed to be punished.

Early in the nineteenth century, London had many criminals but no organized police force out-side the City and the Thames River. For the most part, people were supposed to protect themselves. By prescribing the death penalty for over two hundred offenses, the criminal code was designed to frighten people into good behavior, but the chances of being caught were slim. The establishment of the Metropolitan Police Force in 1829 proved a turning point. Uniformed, trained constables began to patrol the streets. One central authority took responsibility for keeping order within the capital, and crime rates decreased. Initially resented as a threat to local liberties, the force provided a model for modern policing that was copied quickly throughout Britain.

metropolitan culture

London houses the largest collection of museums, theaters, clubs, and societies in the United Kingdom. The British government established the British Museum in the 1750s. Archaeological expeditions around the empire added to its vast store of

artifacts, which included the Parthenon statuary brought back by Lord Elgin (1766–1841) from Greece in 1801. Trafalgar Square became another center of cultural pilgrimage with the building of the National Gallery of Art in 1837 and the National Portrait Gallery in 1856. Profits from the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 financed new centers for study of British art and science. Opening in 1857, the South Kensington Museum eventually split into the Victoria and Albert Museum for applied art and the Science Museum. In order to bring contemporary art to workers, Samuel Augustus Barnett (1844–1913) and his wife Henrietta founded the East End Gallery in Whitechapel, which opened in 1901. As British wealth increased, so did the impulse to collect and to display the results to people of all ranks and social statuses.

Intellectuals, scientists, and the highly skilled congregated in London, and they became more highly organized and vocal during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The crown chartered a variety of scientific societies, starting with the Royal Society in 1662. By the mid-nineteenth century, groups of specialists such as the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Geological Society, and the Royal Statistical Society abounded in the capital. As medicine and law became more highly professionalized, new societies such as the Royal College of Surgeons, the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, and the Law Society brought

added respectability and visibility to their members. A London association, chartered by the government and provided with rules of admission and conduct, became a rite of passage for aspiring professionals.

To challenge the Anglican monopoly of university education, radical intellectuals founded University College, London in 1827. No religious barriers to entry were erected, and the curriculum concentrated on modern subjects largely ignored by Oxford and Cambridge. It joined with the Anglican King's College to form the University of London in 1837—male-only until it opened examinations to women in 1878. The University expanded to include Bedford and Royal Holloway Colleges for women. Institutions like the London School of Economics, organized by Fabian socialists in 1895, made the capital a center of training in the social sciences. Art, music, and drama schools flourished in London, as well.

London was also the center of the British entertainment world. Royal licenses dating from the 1660s restricted theatrical productions to two great playhouses, Drury Lane and Covent Garden, but they had many unlicensed competitors. By the time the industry was opened to all comers in 1843, several dozen theaters operated all over the capital. In the second half of the nineteenth century, entrepreneurs built new theaters and music halls for audiences of all social classes and ages. The East End had "penny gaffes" where melodrama flourished. Regulation remained, however, in the person of the Lord Chamberlain, who retained the right to block productions and institutions "in the interest of good manners, decorum, or the public peace." His censorious gaze ended performances of Oscar Wilde's Salome in 1892.

For less formal entertainment, Londoners walked to pleasure gardens, where they saw open air shows and fireworks in tree-lined, suburban settings. In central London, song and supper rooms developed into music halls where patrons drank and listened to the rock stars of the time. From the 1820s, Regent's Park in London hosted a zoo and a diorama of the city as seen from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral. Sporting enthusiasts could attend wrestling matches or cockfights, until the latter were banned in 1849. Spectator sports drew large crowds to cheer and to bet on favorites. Boxing and cricket were popular in the late eighteenth century, and by 1900 this list expanded to include soccer and rugby. The best show of all proved to be the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, visited by six million people who came to look at Indian crafts, French art, and British manufactured goods.

London fostered a culture of consumption, fed by changes in marketing. New technologies transformed stores into seductive places. Drapers' stores used bright lights and huge plate glass windows to lure customers inside. In 1863, William Whiteley (1831–1907) built the country's first department store in the West End, and it soon spawned even more successful imitators. Oxford Street became a shoppers' Mecca, particularly after 1909, when Selfridges' palace of merchandise drew thousands to gaze at its decorations and to lunch in its fashionable dining rooms. Central London encouraged many forms of consumption. Thousands of coffeehouses, cookshops, street vendors, and chophouses proved that fast food was not a modern invention. To provide high-status men with meeting places, social clubs where members could drink and dine, unencumbered by wives, multiplied in the West End. By the 1860s, middle-class women founded clubs of their own to ease female expeditions around the town.

Much of London's cultural life was divided according to social status and gender. High culture was less open to poorer Londoners than popular culture was to the affluent. Museums limited weekend hours, restricting workers' access, and respectable clothing was necessary for entry into London parks. Men dominated London's public spaces, risky places for unchaperoned middle-class women, who were expected to stay at home. By the 1880s, however, the rules loosened, as expanded urban opportunities for women coincided with their increasing demands for access.


Not until 1889 did London have an effective structure of government. What became officially "London" in the late nineteenth century combined a jumble of local authorities, conflicting jurisdictions, and rival centers of power. The metropolis grew from three centers: (1) the City of London, a square mile of territory north of the river; (2) Westminster, the seat of court and Parliament; and (3) Southwark on the south bank of the Thames. Rudimentary county institutions ruled in parts of Middlesex, Kent, and Surrey, while parish vestries controlled Hammersmith, Chelsea, Paddington, Marylebone, St. Pancras, and much of Westminster. The City of London had a particularly complicated and arcane set of institutions. A Lord Mayor and two Sheriffs were elected annually, but policies were set by the Court of Aldermen, the Court of Common Council, the Court of Common Hall, and the Court of Wardmote, which operated alongside eighty-nine craft guilds or companies, whose members became "freemen" and therefore voters in the City. While the City operated as a democracy for males with property, real power lay in the hands of the Aldermen, a group of rich, elderly merchants appointed for life. City officials had also amassed power far beyond the ancient walls of the town. They governed the river Thames, as well as the Port of London, local markets, and prisons. In the crowd of metropolitan administrators, the City stood out as a giant among dwarfs.

In 1800, a crazy-quilt of tiny units and over-lapping jurisdictions offered services to inhabitants. Turnpike trusts ran the main roads, while sewer commissioners looked after the drains. The Bow Street Magistrates' Court and its small staff of detectives attempted to control crime. Around two hundred parishes independently subsidized the poor within their boundaries, and paved, lit, and cleaned streets. In addition, Parliament authorized hundreds of local improvement trusts. Nine different trusts looked after the lighting of the Lambeth parish alone. With little coordination other than that provided by the market, London institutions and voters ignored their neighbors and guarded their own turf.

Reform came piecemeal throughout the nineteenth century. A string of cholera epidemics paved the way for the Metropolitan Board of Works,

founded in 1855 to build sewers and new streets. Elected by the City Corporation and parish vestries, the Board managed to centralize control of waste management, street improvements, and parks while leaving the ancient, archaic structures of local government intact. By the 1880s, demonstrators on the streets and reformers in Parliament called for its replacement.

The Local Government Act of 1888 established the London County Council (LCC), which had jurisdiction over 117 square miles. Only a minority (about one in ten Londoners) could vote for the new council, but property-owning women were included in the electorate. They chose a central council and twenty-nine borough councils, who ran the metropolis until 1965, when the LCC expanded into the Greater London Council and was responsible for an even larger territory. Under the leadership of the Liberals and Radical Progressives who controlled the group until 1907, the LCC launched an ambitious program of social reform. It took responsibility for fire service, housing, and trolley transport; it launched steamboat service on the Thames. After 1904, the LCC managed state-funded primary and secondary education, while moving London teachers onto the municipal payroll. By 1914, the LCC was London's largest employer. Its staff built schools and monitored midwives, music halls, and lodging houses. Influenced by Fabian socialists, the council erected large, publicly owned housing estates for workers on the outskirts of the city. These model

estates provided workers with far better sanitation—indoor plumbing and bathrooms, for example—in a relatively drab, restricted social setting. Municipal collectivism made its mark in London during the two decades before World War I, when activist politicians had the votes to "expand the sphere of the civic." London government shifted from retrograde to reforming at the end of the nineteenth century.

By the outbreak of World War I, London had become a "modern" city with effective government, well-functioning infrastructures, and a booming cultural life. Although the region had reestablished its economic hegemony, social inequalities remained deep and unresolved.

See alsoCities and Towns; Great Britain; Paris.


Primary Sources

Besant, Walter. London in the Nineteenth Century. London, 1909. Reprint, New York, 1985.

Booth, Charles. Life and Labour of the People of London. 17 vols. London, 1902.

Doré, Gustave, and Blanchard Jerrold. London, A Pilgrimage. London, 1872. Reprint, New York, 1968.

James, Henry. English Hours. Boston, 1905.

Mayhew, Henry. London Labour and the London Poor, 4 vols. London, 1861–1862. Reprint, New York, 1968.

Secondary Sources

Dennis, Richard J. "Modern London." In Vol. 3 of The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, edited by Martin Daunton, 95–132. Cambridge, U.K., 2000.

Fishman, William J. East End, 1888: Life in a London Borough among the Labouring Poor. Philadelphia, 1988.

Green, David R. From Artisans to Paupers: Economic Change and Poverty in London, 1790–1870. Aldershot, U.K., 1995.

Jones, Gareth Stedman. Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship between Classes in Victorian Society. Oxford, U.K., 1971.

Lees, Lynn Hollen. Exiles of Erin: Irish Migrants in Victorian London. Ithaca, N.Y., 1979.

Mitchell, B. R. British Historical Statistics. Cambridge, U.K., 1988.

Nead, Lynda. Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London. New Haven, Conn., 2000.

Olsen, Donald J. The Growth of Victorian London. New York, 1976.

Pennybacker, Susan D. A Vision for London 1889–1914: Labour, Everyday Life, and the LCC Experiment. London, 1995.

Porter, Roy. London: A Social History. Cambridge, Mass., 1994.

Rappaport, Erika Diane. Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London's West End. Princeton, N.J., 2000.

Schwarz, L. D. London in the Age of Industrialisation: Entrepreneurs, Labour Force and Living Conditions, 1700–1850. Cambridge, U.K., 1992.

Sheppard, Francis. London, 1808–1870: The Infernal Wen. Berkeley, Calif., 1971.

Walkowitz, Judith R. City of Dreadful Night: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian London. Chicago, 1992.

Lynn Hollen Lees


views updated May 14 2018



In the summer of 1914, as Europe prepared to tear itself apart, it was clear that the future of London was not the smallest stake at play in the struggle for continental and imperial supremacy. London was the largest city the world had ever seen: at 7.16 million people, its population outnumbered Berlin, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Moscow combined. It was the world's busiest port, one of its greatest manufacturing districts, and its richest consumer market. Most important of all, the square mile of the City of London was the world's banker, determining the price of international commodities, arranging credit for most of the world's merchants, and accommodating the debts—even printing the banknotes—of many governments across the globe. All that would change, should war rearrange the shape of empires and the power of nations to the detriment of Britain and its capital.


World War I did indeed change London. During the four years of war most alterations seemed for the worse. Pubs closed longer, beer was watered, the streets were blacked out, and nightlife shut down. Bombing by zeppelins and Gotha biplanes killed some six hundred Londoners from the summer of 1917 to November 1918. The return home of London's German minority, its largest, and of some French, Italians, and Russians narrowed the capital's cosmopolitan appeal. A virtual halt on slum clearance and nonmilitary construction meant that London's housing problem, the city's biggest social demerit, deteriorated even further. The deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of Londoners in battles in Flanders and elsewhere brought agony to every street.

But the hidden effects proved larger in the long run, and these were greatly more positive. A huge wartime rise in working-class incomes accompanied full employment, with masses of women brought into the workforce for the first time. This stoked demand for better housing and higher living standards. New industrial areas for war production, notably in west London at Park Royal, expanded the capital's manufacturing capacity to meet the demand for modern goods. And the dislocation of German and French banking in the turmoil of war provided further opportunities for the City, a big factor in the continuing prosperity of London's middle classes during the war and after.

This twin effect of pent-up demand in all classes, especially within a great sector of the population historically submerged in under-consumption, and enhanced industrial capacity on the edge of the metropolis fueled one of the great London phenomena of the twentieth century: its enormous suburban expansion between the two world wars. From 1924 to 1939, London doubled in size on the ground, covering a built-up area some thirty-four miles across. Around 860,000 houses were built in these years. In 1934, the most frantic of all, 1,500 were being run up every week. And, following the lead of Park Royal, by far the fastest growth was on London's western edge, where new semidetached suburbs at Wembley, Neasden, Hayes, and elsewhere were connected to London by improved rail links above and below ground, and by a spreading network of motor buses. This was the biggest land-grab in London's—indeed, Britain's—history.

With new houses came more and more Londoners. Not all these, though, were new to the city. Much of new London was occupied by middle-class movers from inner London, tempted out by electric railways and the tube (London's underground rail system), by mortgages as cheap as inner-city rents, and by the delights of suburban life with a garden, and neighbors just like themselves. Many others were of the upper working class, moving out to council estates (most noticeably, a new town of ninety thousand at Becontree in Essex) and to the cheaper zones of owner-occupation, such as Bexley in southeast London. But many suburbanites were newcomers to London. And other newcomers filled some of the spaces in inner London that older-established Londoners now found so irksome. London's outer ring housed almost 900,000 more people in 1939 than just eight years before, nearly as many as if the people of Birmingham, Britain's second-largest city, had marched lock and stock to the capital. In that year, London's population reached 8.62 million, a number unlikely ever to be surpassed. Londoners made up more than one in five of the people of England and Wales. And that was a proportion also never likely to be bettered.

This overwhelming expansion of London and Londoners was largely built on the ferocious enterprise of metropolitan manufacturing industry. London had been the original home of new industries even in 1914, especially electrical commodities, motorcars, and airplanes. The wartime industrial growth-points secured much of the new factory building of the interwar years for the capital. Between 1932 and 1937, 83 percent of the nation's net increase of new factories employing twenty-five or more persons were built in London. Many employed predominantly young women—fifteen thousand of them at the Gramophone Company (later EMI) at Hayes—revolutionizing the prospects and aspirations of the London working class in the process. Here the new world of radios, gramophone records, film, cosmetics, artificial fabrics, plastics, convenience foods, and everything to do with sport were not only made but found their readiest market.

Against the grain of catastrophic slump in most of the older industrial areas of Britain, London was the beacon leading the country out of depression. Metropolitan fortunes seemed to triumph independently of the nation's. Small wonder that most planners and politicians saw provincial decline and the hypergrowth of London as two sides of the same coin. By the end of the 1930s, there was a virtual consensus among those who thought about such matters. London was a "national menace." Its growth had not just to be stopped but put into reverse.


Indeed London's growth was put into reverse. Not by planners or government, but by the second period of total war to descend on the city in a generation. This time the negative outcomes overwhelmed the positive, and not only in the short term. First were the casualties. No true figure can ever be known, but officials put the civilian death toll of all the various periods of "the Blitz" from September 1940 to March 1945—prolonged night bombing, daylight raids, V1 buzz bombs and the terrible V2 rockets—at 29,890. Second was the damage to London's fabric. This was immense. The City lost a third of its floor space in a single night, 29–30 December 1940. Some 166,000 London houses—containing probably three times as many dwellings—were utterly destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Whole districts in east London were razed to the ground. The port was so heavily damaged that some parts never worked again. But out of all this destruction, and despite some well-founded fears for morale, the spirit of the Londoners and their city proved a symbol of heroic resistance to Free Europe and the world.

Indomitable it may have been, but London would never be the same again. Industrially, the battering received by inner London cleared out many factories and workshops from districts already uncongenially crowded. The port recovered its prewar trade for a time, but wartime developments would eventually make goods handling on the upper Thames obsolete in a generation. Redevelopment of the City, its land values the highest in Europe, encouraged the revolution in tall buildings that interwar London, with the sole exception of London University's Senate House, had fought hard to avoid. It would be on architects' drawing boards of the late 1940s that London's lukewarm flirtation with skyscrapers would first find expression.

Even grander schemes were afoot. Prewar orthodoxy over the damaging hypergrowth of London dominated thinking about how the city should be reconstructed after the peace. In 1943–1944, visionary plans were produced by men such as Patrick Abercrombie who believed that emptying London of people and jobs would solve not just metropolitan problems but the nation's too. Once industry and population had been moved out to a ring of New Towns, what was left would be redeveloped where possible and "zoned" for specialist functions—residential here, commercial there, industrial somewhere else. And traffic, the second of London's great social and economic demerits, would be steered away from the center in a series of giant ring roads.

In the event the plans proved too visionary by far. Imposing order on London was not only impracticable and prohibitively expensive but also, finally, undesired by Londoners who valued the chaotic variety of their city. Comprehensive redevelopment of some parts of the East End was attempted, but in general rebuilding was piecemeal and the most destructive of the ring roads was never built. Some of the planners' objectives were achieved, but usually without their intervention. The 1940s and 1950s were bleak decades in London, its fabric war-scarred, its housing crisis worse than before the war, a juvenile crime wave made more dangerous by the ready availability of ex-service handguns. Londoners left when they could. And industry had moved out too, finding no niche in areas redeveloped predominantly for housing. By 1961 the population was below eight million, lower than it had been for more than thirty years.

There were two other key players in the momentous changes of the first two postwar decades. The destruction of the City had deprived London of much-needed office space. Although backstreet industry might be leaving the metropolis, office jobs were increasing daily. The City had more than maintained its share of European and some worldwide financial services, and international business increasingly sought London headquarters. Capitalizing on this demand, the developer of office towers would be one of the great hate-figures of the postwar metropolis. Towers were built all over central London, not just the City. The notorious Centre Point, designed by Sir Richard Seifert for developer Harry Hyams at the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, stayed empty for ten years after completion in 1967. It came to symbolize the quintessence of wasteful finance capitalism at Londoners' expense.

If the developers were one force, then a reinvigorated London government was the other. Remodeled in 1964 to cover virtually the whole of the built-up area, it comprised a strategic authority in the Greater London Council (GLC), and thirty-two new all-purpose London boroughs. The old City Corporation was left untouched. The changes went a long way to put right the fractured and outdated arrangements inherited from the Victorians. Reinvigorated government proved destructive for old London. The 1960s and 1970s saw widespread clearance of working-class areas for new housing in giant council estates. Much of the Victorian housing that was destroyed could have been saved, and much of the systems-built tower-blocks and high-density estates that replaced it proved unfit for their purpose within a generation.


These were great changes in the fabric of London, and more were to come. But they were as nothing compared to the change wrought in the Londoner. Up to 1948, for 150 years or more, black people had been rarities in London. During the nineteenth century there had been a steady rise in European migration to London, especially among eastern European Jews, who represented one of the most vibrant and influential of London's minorities in the twentieth century. In 1914, around 4 percent of the population of inner London was foreign born, the vast majority Europeans by birth. In 1951, the figure had crept up to some one in twenty, many of them Poles dislocated from their homeland by war and repression. Few were warmly welcomed. Among many working-class Londoners and others, xenophobia and a mistrust of foreigners, especially those with black skins, were not often openly expressed but were deeply felt nonetheless.

So Londoners could not have been more ill-prepared for what began on 22 June 1948 with the docking at Tilbury, London's downriver port, of the SS Empire Windrush carrying five hundred mainly Jamaican migrants. There had been harbingers of the West Indian diaspora—with London as a prime destination—both during the war and immediately after. But the huge publicity given to the Windrush brought the realities of postwar migration home to Londoners as nothing had before. As thousands followed—there were said to be 100,000 West Indians in London by 1961—resentment battled with notions of fair play. London's housing problem and a resurgence of marginal fascist movements in east London gave resentment something to bite on. In the summer of 1958, London's only genuine race riot of the century broke out in Notting Hill, a desperately rundown area of inner west London. There were some serious assaults and cries of "lynch him," but it all petered out after a few days. And it was noticeable how some white Londoners of all classes had rallied to the cause of the black newcomers.

There were no further race riots, but dangerous times were to come. The free-and-easy camaraderie of the English-speaking West Indians generally made them more acceptable to indigenous Londoners than more "foreign" migrants from India and Pakistan who entered from the mid-1950s on. And the forced migration of Asians from East Africa after 1960, reaching crisis levels in 1967–1968, provoked demonstrations in favor of repatriation. From 1968 through the 1970s, racially motivated assaults—and a dozen or so murders—put the success or failure of multicultural London on a knife-edge. Or perhaps just appeared to do so, for in the end, weight of numbers and the diversity of communities made harmony, even at a respectful distance, a practical necessity. There was also, especially between Afro-Caribbeans and whites, a considerable amount of intermarriage. No one could conceivably have forecast that as a future for Londoners in 1948.

Perhaps the key decade in building toleration in London was the 1960s, despite the great difficulties experienced from 1968 and despite the bleak reaction of the decade that followed. A contributory factor was the rediscovery of inner London by the young aspiring middle classes, often sharing it with black migrants, in a reversal of the trend to suburbanization between the wars. The sociologist Ruth Glass called this phenomenon "gentrification" in 1964, and the name happily stuck. Areas of north London, especially Hampstead, Camden Town, and Islington—districts apparently marked only for the bulldozer—found champions in middle-class newcomers who saw much to be admired in Victorian streets and houses and much to be deplored in what was put up in their stead. There were some notable campaigns against council-led destruction spilling into the 1970s, most famously of all in Covent Garden, a district scheduled largely for total reconstruction but almost entirely saved—though saved for whom would be an open question. By 1974, the battle to stem the destruction of Victorian London had largely been won.

The decade of the 1960s was significant in other ways, too, most famously in the cultural revolution that saw London as a national, and for a time international, crucible. "London: The Swinging City" was how Time magazine in April 1966 described a phenomenon that had already been attracting European attention for at least two years before. With roots in café-based rock music, flavored by elements of the new culture imported from the West Indies, and with a host of brilliant talent most especially in the London fashion industry, "Swinging London" captured the world's imagination from about 1963 to 1972. Its centers were Carnaby Street and the rest of Soho, where London's sex industry had increasingly concentrated, and Chelsea, a riverside district west of the central area, where art and fashion had long felt at home. Newly gentrifying districts played their part too. In these years, some barriers were permanently broken down—sexual, political, racial (up to a point), and most notably class. Working-class footballers, rock singers, photographers, hairdressers, actors, and fashion models were iconic figures happily accepted into the worlds of the super-rich of old or new varieties. They would be so for the rest of the century and beyond.

The 1960s' wheels were greased by relative prosperity and full employment. Few at the time saw the troubles facing London that would work their way right through the troubled decades of the 1970s and 1980s. For the London economy entered a period of massive restructuring that World War II and its aftermath had begun. There was a collapse of manufacturing, especially in the well-established London metal trades. Some old connections between industry and locality—such as Fleet Street and the printing industry—disappeared altogether. There were 1.43 million manufacturing jobs in London in 1961, just 435,000 in 1989. From 1966 to 1981, the docks upriver from Tilbury closed one after another as large container ships, and roll-on roll-off truck freight, could no longer be accommodated in London's narrow waterway and congested roads. Fears of London's hypergrowth meant that office jobs were being relocated from the capital as a matter of official policy as late as 1978. In all, London lost some 30 percent of its jobs in the thirty years or so following 1962.

The 1970s and 1980s were bleak in other ways too. Some fierce trade union struggles, notably involving low-paid Asian migrants in west London in 1977 and high-paid print workers in the East End in 1986–1987, brought with them civil strife on a large scale. The Irish Republican Army, an old enemy of Londoners, waged two fierce bombing campaigns in 1973–1976 and 1978–1982, setting 252 bombs and killing fifty-six people; the civil war within Islam chose London as its battleground periodically during these years, too. Even more significantly, sore feelings between young black and Asian migrants and the Metropolitan Police, run by the home secretary and not by London government, erupted into fierce pitched battles. Whites joined in, but against the police and not against black Londoners. The worst civil unrest of the period was at Brixton, inner southwest London, 10–12 April 1981, and at Broadwater Farm, a giant council estate in Tottenham, north London, where a popular community policeman, Keith Blakelock, was hacked to death in October 1985. Feelings between black people and a London police force unable to expunge racism from its ranks would be troubled again, but never as bad as they were in the early 1980s.

As if this were not enough, an oppositional tendency took root in much of London government, radical socialism allying itself with militant public sector trade unionism. Numerous battles within the GLC, led by a Labour Party left-winger called Ken Livingstone, led to the government of Margaret Thatcher abolishing that strategic arm of London government altogether in April 1986. This seemed to epitomize London's doldrums. Here was a city whose economy was in crisis, its people periodically at war with each other, now bereft of a voice to manage its own affairs. Unsurprisingly, Londoners voted with their feet. In 1983 it was estimated that London's population slumped to 6.77 million, nearly 2 million fewer than in 1939.


Things could have gotten worse, but they did not. Embedded in the London economy's bad news were some green shoots of optimism. Heathrow Airport, long the busiest in the world, had to some extent made up for job losses caused by the closure of the port. Its huge employment area was based on tourism, an industry that had its ups and downs in London but that in the long term moved from strength to strength. New tourist attractions seemed to be added to the city every year, notably Sam Wanamaker's Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern Gallery, both on the south bank. Closely associated with tourism was London's great depth in cultural industries, especially all varieties of music, heritage, theater, art, animation, and to some extent film. London fashion, too, never suffered severe setbacks after the 1960s, and the garment industry was one element of metropolitan manufacturing that stood up well to restructuring. Most of all, London's financial services were so buoyant that they spilled out of the City eastward to fill a new "Manhattan on Thames" in the Isle of Dogs, where Canary Wharf Tower added an elegant new spire to the skyline. This was all a much narrower base on which to build a city's economy than London had previously enjoyed, and several commentators highlighted the risks of an economy so heavily mortgaged to the stability of world finances. But by 2004, London had done well for almost a decade, certainly since 1997. It no longer lagged behind national unemployment figures and its people were in general more prosperous than at any time in history.

A consequence of prosperity was universally high property prices, a serious matter when owner-occupation had become the largest single form of housing tenure. The effects were seen all over London. Redevelopment opportunities in the City, on the south bank of the Thames, and in the docklands saw a self-confident resurrection of the skyscraper, many exploiting views of the river that had for so long been undervalued as a metropolitan asset. And London's residential areas changed character in a chameleon fashion that left older established Londoners breathless. Notting Hill, one of the worst districts of the 1950s, had become one of the "best" in the 1990s; and Hoxton, said to be the leading criminal quarter of London in 1914, had become a sought-after location for artists' lofts and smart bistros by 2004. There were numerous other examples. In all these places, the transformation was never quite complete. Each had a mixture, sometimes an uneasy one, of rich newcomers and poor locals and migrants.

Such a complex mix was typical of multicultural London. By 2004, it was perhaps the largest assemblage of diverse ethnicities anywhere in the world. Some significant parts, such as the boroughs of Brent (northwest London) and Newham (in the east), had nonwhite majority populations in 2001. In another, Hackney, schoolchildren spoke more than one hundred different home languages. Indeed, every part of the world's peoples found a home, to a greater or lesser extent, in London. It was also, many thought, the world's best instance of a harmonious multiculturalism, with flagship events such as the Notting Hill Carnival every August attracting one million visitors, and with miraculously little communal antagonism. Some old hatreds simmered beneath the surface, and there were still isolated assaults, even killings, but in general peaceable mutual respect set the London tone; this was despite migration remaining highly mobile, with new groups in the 1990s and thereafter arriving in some numbers from the former Yugoslavia, from Poland and the former Soviet Union, from Somalia, from Iraq and Kurdistan.

There was more good news for Londoners when the first government of Tony Blair restored some elements of democratic control, providing for an elected mayor and a Greater London Assembly. These gained powers over transport, economic development, some planning, and—remarkably—the Metropolitan Police. The first mayor elected in May 2001 did not use all these new resources wisely. This was that same Livingstone whose struggle with Thatcher had led to the disabling of London government in the first place, now fallen out with his party and standing as an independent. But he bravely pushed through a traffic congestion charge for central London, the first on such a scale anywhere in the world. It was a qualified success and Livingstone, now reconciled with the Labour Party, was reelected for a second term in 2004.

A robust economy, a brighter city more tuned to the pursuit of pleasure than ever before, a smarter fabric constantly modernizing, a new governmental settlement more in tune with the needs of its people: all this was a more positive outcome for London than could reasonably have been forecast at any time since 1940. Not surprisingly, the population had risen again, to 7.19 million by 2001, possibly an undercount of the true figure. Not surprisingly, too, in 2004 old fears were resurrected of London's growth, seen once more as a negative force within the nation. That surely missed the point. All the evidence of the twentieth century indicated that when metropolitan consumption and innovation were powerful, the nation benefited too. And now there was more at stake than just the nation. London was, indeed, less British than at any time for a thousand years. For London, unique in Europe and only rivaled by New York, was a true world city. In fifty years it had become a multinational city-state. Of the world, it now belonged to the world and its people.

See alsoBlitzkrieg; Housing; Immigration and Internal Migration; Thatcher, Margaret; United Kingdom .


Barker, T. C., and Michael Robbins. A History of London Transport: Passenger Transport and the Development of the Metropolis. Vol. 2: The Twentieth Century to 1970. Revised edition. London, 1975.

Bradley, Simon, and Nikolaus Pevsner. London. Vol. 1: The City of London. London, 1997.

Centre for Urban Studies, ed. London: Aspects of Change. London, 1964.

Clout, Hugh, ed. Changing London. Slough, U.K., 1978.

Donnison, David, and David Eversley, eds. London: Urban Patterns, Problems, and Policies. London, 1973.

Fainstein, Susan S. The City Builders: Property, Politics, and Planning in London and New York. Oxford, U.K., 1994.

Feldman, David, and Gareth Stedman Jones, eds. Metropolis, London: Histories and Representations since 1800. London, 1989.

Foley, Donald L. Controlling London's Growth: Planning the Great Wen, 1940–1960. Berkeley, Calif., 1963.

Hall, Peter Geoffrey. London 2001. London, 1989.

Hebbert, Michael. London: More by Fortune Than Design. Chichester, U.K., 1998.

Hoggart, Keith, and David Green, eds. London: A New Metropolitan Geography. London, 1991.

Howe, Darcus. From Bobby to Babylon: Blacks and British Police. London, 1988.

Jackson, Alan A. Semi-Detached London: Suburban Development, Life, and Transport, 1900–1939. London, 1973.

Kynaston, David. The City of London, 1815–1945. 3 Vols. London, 1994–99.

Marriott, Oliver. The Property Boom. London, 1967.

Martin, J. E. Greater London: An Industrial Geography. London, 1966.

Marwick, Arthur. The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c. 1958–c. 1974. Oxford, U.K., 1998.

Panayi, Panakos, ed. Racial Violence in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Revised edition. London, 1996.

Phillips, Mike, and Trevor Phillips. Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-racial Britain. London, 1998.

Saint, Andrew, ed. Politics and the People of London: The London County Council, 1889–1965. London, 1989.

Storkey, Marian, J. Maguire, and R. Lewis. Cosmopolitan London: Past, Present and Future. London, 1997.

White, Jerry. London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People. London, 2001.

Ziegler, Philip. London at War, 1939–1945. London, 1995.

Jerry White


views updated May 08 2018


LONDON. The most salient feature of London's experience in the early modern period was the enormous growth of its population. From approximately 70,000 inhabitants in 1500, it grew to 200,000 by 1600, to 400,000 by 1650, to 575,000 by 1700, and had reached 900,000 by 1800. Its position in the tables of European urban centers rose from sixth place in 1500 to third in 1600 (after Naples and Paris), and it outstripped Paris to reach the top position soon after 1650. Whereas it contained about 2 percent of the English population in 1500, by 1700 it had reached around 10 percent, and this level was sustained through the eighteenth century. Mortality levels were extremely high in London: indeed they deteriorated after the disappearance of plague in the later seventeenth century because the capital acted as a reservoir of infections. For much of the eighteenth century tuberculosis, typhus, and smallpox were major killers. It was only from the 1760s that mortality conditions began to improve. This meant that the city's growth could only be sustained by a constant flow of migrants who came from every corner of England and Wales (and increasingly from Scotland and Ireland and the European mainland, too). By 1700 London needed probably about 8,000 newcomers a year. Only something between 20 and 30 percent of Londoners had been born in the city. And because London acted as a revolving door, not only receiving people, but sending them back to the provinces, as many as one in six of the national population had experience of London life by 1700.


The cities that grew most rapidly in early modern Europe were capitals or ports. London was both. In the early sixteenth century London already accounted for 75 percent of the country's international trade, but it was dangerously dependent on the export of the key staple of woolen cloth to the Antwerp entrepôt in return for luxury goods. By 1600 the pattern of trade was already diversifying, as the disruptions to trade with the Low Countries encouraged London merchants to seek direct access to goods they had previously obtained there. The merchants of London returned to the Mediterranean in the 1570s, began voyaging to the East Indies in 1600, and began to develop trade with the Americas in the early seventeenth century. London entered a new phase of import-led growth, and reexports, particularly of colonial products like tobacco, became increasingly important. By 1700 London handled 80 percent of the nation's imports, 65 percent of its exports, and 85 percent of its reexports.

As a capital city London benefited from the increasing centralization of government. As the royal court became more sedentary and also asserted its monopoly of patronage, the landed elites came to see a London residence as essential to the maintenance of their power and influence, contributing to the beginning of the London winter season from 1600 onward. Likewise, the huge increase in the volume of litigation in the central law courts brought more people to the capital on legal business. This in turn contributed to the concentration of the professions in the capital: by 1730 London contained at least a quarter of the country's solicitors and attorneys. The development of the fiscal military state from the 1690s onward brought about both an increase in the size of the government apparatus (as well as annual Parliaments) and a huge expansion in the financial services sector as London acquired the key banking and insurance institutions.

London's role as capital city and port contributed to its role as center of manufacturing and shopping. The residence of the elites brought an immense demand for luxury goods in its wake, while the import trades spawned spin-off industries like sugar refining and silk weaving. Whereas in 1500 the economy had been dangerously dependent on the state of the cloth trade, the broadening of the manufacturing base contributed to the long-term resilience of the city economy. London's manufactures became increasingly heavily capitalized, entailing a diminution in the role of the self-employed artisan and a growth in larger enterprises. London was not, however, to be the cradle of the industrial revolution, and in the later eighteenth century the proving ground of industrial innovation lay in the provinces. The high labor costs associated with the capital meant that London came to concentrate on the finishing of industrial goods and on the luxury trades, but it remained the largest manufacturing center in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. Likewise, the enormous demand represented by the concentration of people in London encouraged the precocious development of specialist retailing facilities. Already in the 1490s foreign travelers marveled at the wealth of the goldsmiths' shops in Cheapside; in the early sixteenth century moralists bemoaned the proliferation of haberdashers' shops selling fripperies; in 1568 London acquired its first shopping mall in the galleried arcades of Sir Thomas Gresham's Royal Exchange, a model for other purpose-built retailing emporia in the West End in the seventeenth century.

The concentration of the social elites in the capital for the London season contributed to the proliferation of entertainments and the increasing commercialization of leisure. One of the earliest manifestations of this was the amphitheater playhouses (three were built in 15761577) with capacities of upwards of 1,500. Although subject to the constant strictures of the moralists and the fitful regulation of a nervous government, the theaters became an established feature of the London social scene. Commercial concerts began in the 1670s; although aristocratic patronage was critical in attracting high-class composers and vocal and instrumental performers, there was enormous public interest in the performances, the rehearsal for Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749) having an audience of twelve thousand. Citizens had long found recreation in the fields about the city, but physical expansion meant that it was necessary to create designated recreational promenades, beginning with Moorfields in 1608, but soon supplemented by the more fashionable Lincoln's Inn Fields and St. James' Park. By the eighteenth century the metropolitan area was studded with a variety of pleasure gardens, their differential pricing ensuring that the classes would not have to mingle too much. Much cultural and social exchange, of course, continued to take place in the city's drinking establishments: by the 1730s London boasted at least 200 inns, 500 taverns, 6,000 alehouses, and 550 coffeehouses.


The two foci of court and port affected the social geography of the city. The City proper, the area under the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor and aldermen covering what is now known as the "square mile," was, although not socially uniform in character, increasingly dominated by the commercial elites. This process was reinforced after the Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed 87 parish churches, 13,200 houses, and many public buildings. Although it proved impossible to realize the ambitions for a comprehensive redesign of the city's layout, the post-Fire rebuilding changed its face, as brick replaced timber and lath, and many overcrowded tenements were not rebuilt. Meanwhile the landed elites, many of whom had maintained residences in the City in the later Middle Ages, migrated westward toward Westminster, which constituted a separate focus for growth. The West End was characterized by a large number of speculative housing developments, usually regular terrace rows in wide streets and squares, many of them sponsored by the aristocracy themselves. By contrast, the eastern suburbs were dominated by the port, the miles of dockyards generating a huge demand for casual (and often seasonally unemployed) labor, and a variety of industrial activity, including shipbuilding, as well as the processing of imported raw materials. The northern and eastern suburbs were markedly poorer (with large numbers of subdivided properties and a high level of multiple occupancy) than the City and the West End, though it would be wrong to draw the distinctions too strongly. The presence of the elites in the West End generated an enormous demand for services and manufactures, meaning that within a few yards of the fashionable squares dominated by the aristocracy and gentry were alleys teeming with the poor. In the City the commercial core was centered on the key shopping thoroughfares like Cheapside and places of mercantile association like the Royal Exchange, but there were areas of marked poverty, particularly in the insalubrious riverside parishes.

The scale of growth meant that the traditional City was soon engulfed by the expanding suburbs. By the later seventeenth century three-quarters of the capital's population resided in areas beyond the control of the Lord Mayor and aldermen. Unlike Paris, where there was a much stronger match between topographical and administrative boundaries, there was no attempt to integrate the suburbs with the governmental structures of the City. The suburbs, all of which experienced in various degrees the social problems of poverty and petty crime attendant on population growth, were governed by overlapping manorial and parochial authorities. Nevertheless the breakdown in order was by no means as great as one might think. London was a relatively well policed capital. From Recorder William Fleetwood in the Elizabethan period to Henry Fielding in the 1750s, chosen magistrates worked closely with the central government to coordinate suburban policing. Parish vestries, particularly in the western suburbs, elaborated the poor law into a bureaucratic mechanism for controlling the poor. Local communities increasingly turned to Parliament for the powers they needed to address local problems. From 1700 there was a proliferation of improvement commissions responsible for street improvement, lighting, and sewerage. A host of voluntary organizations supplemented the work of parish vestries in the relief and schooling of the poor.

Throughout the period London evoked contrasting responses from contemporaries. Protestants might celebrate it as a model godly commonwealth when contrasting the piety of its citizens with the state of rural religion, but they would alternately condemn it as a model of Babylonian depravity when considering its social problems and the greed of its leading citizens. Economic commentators might marvel at the wealth of the City and its increasing dominance over its Continental rivals, but they might also claim that it was strangling the provincial centers. The reality, however, seems to have been that London handled the problems of urban growth more successfully than comparable centers and developed a positive economic and cultural relationship with its hinterland.

See also Britain, Architecture in ; Cities and Urban Life ; England ; English Literature and Language ; Jones, Inigo ; Shops and Shopkeeping ; Wren, Christopher .


Archer, Ian W. The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1991.

Clark, Peter, and Raymond Gillespie, eds. Two Capitals: London and Dublin, 15001840. Oxford and New York, 2001.

George, M. Dorothy. London Life in the Eighteenth Century. Harmondsworth, U.K., 1966.

Griffiths, Paul, and Mark S. R. Jenner, eds. Londinopolis: Essays in the Cultural and Social History of Early Modern London. Manchester, U.K., and New York, 2000.

Inwood, Stephen. A History of London. London, 1998.

Merritt, J. F., ed. Imagining Early Modern London: Perceptions and Portrayals of the City from Stow to Strype, 15981720. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2001.

Porter, Roy. London: A Social History. London, 1994.

Rappaport, Steve. Worlds within Worlds: The Structures of Life in Sixteenth Century London. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1988.

Spence, Craig. London in the 1690s: A Social Atlas. London, 2000.

Thrupp, Sylvia. The Merchant Class of Medieval London, 13001500. Chicago, 1948.

Ian W. Archer


views updated Jun 11 2018

London. Eng. city, capital of Great Britain. One of main musical centres of the world, with rich and varied activities in all branches of the art. From 18th cent. has enjoyed visits from leading performers and composers. Among the latter, Handel, J. C. Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Chopin, Weber, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Berlioz, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, Hindemith, Ligeti, Berio, and Stockhausen are prominent. This summary of London music will be divided into sections, for ease of reference.


. The first real operatic perf. in London was at Rutland House, 1656, when Davenant's The Siege of Rhodes (mus. by 5 composers) was given. Purcell's Dido and Aeneas was perf. at a Chelsea school in 1689. Drury Lane Th. was used for opera in the 1690s. Handel's first operatic perfs. in London after 1711 were mainly at the King's Th., Haymarket. Rival perfs. were given at Lincoln's Inn Fields and Covent Garden. From the 1830s the Lyceum and Drury Lane staged important opera seasons. The King's (re-named Her Majesty's in 1837) was the home of It. opera, but the first London Ring cycle was given there in 1882. After being rebuilt smaller in 1897, Her Majesty's was used less frequently for opera, although Beecham cond. Strauss's Feuersnot there in 1910 and the first version of Ariadne auf Naxos in 1913. The BNOC gave seasons there after 1924. The first th. on the Covent Garden site opened in 1732. Several Handel operas and oratorios were perf. there. The th. was rebuilt in 1782 and enlarged in 1792. It burned down in 1808 and was re-opened in 1809, Bishop being dir. 1810–24. Weber's Oberon had its f.p. there in 1826. Fire destroyed this building in 1856, the present th. opening in 1858. Mainly It. operas were perf., but the first Ring cycle, cond. by Mahler, was given in 1892. From 1896 to 1924, CG was run by a syndicate. In 1908 and 1909, Richter cond. the Ring in English. Between 1910 and 1914 Beecham introduced Elektra, Salome, and Der Rosenkavalier to London and held the lease of the th. 1919–20. Many famous singers and conductors appeared there up to 1939. During the Second World War, CG was a dance hall, but re-opened in 1946 with Purcell's The Fairy Queen and David Webster as admin. of the CG Opera Company. This became the Royal Opera in 1969. From 1931 London's second opera house was Sadler's Wells in Rosebery Avenue which housed the Vic-Wells Opera (SW Opera from 1934) until 1939 and from 1945 to 1968 (it re-opened on 7 June 1945 with f.p. of Peter Grimes). The company moved to the Coliseum in 1968 and changed its name in 1974 to English National Opera. Smaller companies and visiting companies continue to use Sadler's Wells. The forerunner of Sadler's Wells was the Old Vic where Lilian Baylis had first staged opera in 1900. Until 1935 Vic-Wells Opera and Vic-Wells Ballet used both the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells.


Public concerts in London date from 1672. Thomas Britton's weekly gathering at Clerkenwell lasted from 1678 to 1714. Subscription concerts were held at Hickford's Rooms, James Street, from 1729 to c.1752. Geminiani ran rival concerts from 1731 to 1738. The J. C. Bach–C. F. Abel concerts began in 1765 at Carlisle House, Soho Square, and moved to Hanover Square Rooms in 1775. They ceased in 1782. Concerts organized by Cramer, Clementi, and Salomon ran from 1783 to 1793, but Salomon left to launch his own series in 1783 (it was to this series that Haydn came). In the 19th cent. concerts were given first in the Argyll Rooms, at the corner of Oxford and Argyll Streets, and it was there that the Philharmonic Society gave its first concert on 8 March 1813. The building was demolished in 1818 and the New Argyll Rooms opened in 1820 (they burned down in 1830). The Philharmonic moved to the King's Th. in 1830, to Hanover Square Rooms 1833–68, St James's Hall 1869–93, Queen's Hall 1894–1941, Royal Albert Hall 1941–51, Festival Hall from 1951. Important orch. concerts were given at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, cond. by August Manns 1855–1901, where the members of the orch. played continually together and were London's first permanent orch. The opening of the Royal Albert Hall in 1871 added a hall with a capacity of 6,500 to London's musical life. It was used mainly for large-scale events until 1941 when the destruction of Queen's Hall meant that nearly all symphony concerts were given there. It has remained the home since 1941 of the Promenade Concerts, founded in 1895 by Robert Newman and Henry J. Wood. The Queen's Hall, Langham Place, had opened in 1893 and was renowned for its acoustics. It replaced the St James's Hall, Piccadilly, built in 1858. The Richter concerts were given there from 1877 and, even though the Queen's Hall by then existed, Elgar's Enigma Variations had their f.p. at a Richter concert in St James's Hall in 1899. It was demolished in 1905. London's principal concert hall since 1951 has been the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, with the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room as smaller adjuncts since 1967 but not entirely replacing for recitals the usefulness since 1901 of the Wigmore Hall (Bechstein Hall until 1917) in Wigmore Street. The latest addition is the Barbican Concert Hall.

No other city in the world supports as many orchestras as London. The BBC SO (founded 1930) and the orchestras of the Royal Opera House and ENO are independent bodies and do not, as they once would have done, share players with others. The four principal symphony orchs. are London Symphony (founded 1904), London Philharmonic (founded 1932), Philharmonia (founded 1945), and Royal Philharmonic (founded 1946). In addition there are the English Chamber Orchestra (founded 1948, renamed 1960), Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields (founded 1958), London Mozart Players (founded 1949), London Sinfonietta (founded 1968), and Orchestra of St John's, Smith Square (founded 1973). Among the choirs are the Bach Choir (founded 1876), Royal Choral Society (founded 1871), John Alldis Choir (founded 1962), London Choral Society (founded 1903), Monteverdi Choir (founded 1964), London Philharmonic Choir (founded 1947), London Symphony Chorus (founded 1966), and Philharmonia Chorus (founded 1957).


. The Royal Academy of Music was founded in 1822, the Royal College of Music in 1882, Trinity College of Music in 1872, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1880, and the London College of Music in 1887. In addition the Univ. of London has a thriving musical wing.


. In festivals, libraries, publishing firms, and not least the churches, from Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral, the Temple Church, and much besides, London's music is blessed by abundance. The capital is fortunate in having and holding so much; the only cavil is that some Londoners sometimes assume that nowhere else (in Britain) has anything.


views updated Jun 11 2018


The colonial period was the only time in American history when America looked to Europe for its principal city. But London was America's capital city in a far broader sense than as the seat of imperial government. Georgian London was the center of the English-speaking world for trade, finance, and banking; the empire's biggest port; the fountain of art and literature; the center of scientific endeavor; the chief nursery of music and theatre; the leader in journalism and print culture; the model of fashion and good taste. It was also the biggest shopping center in the British Atlantic Empire, with shops whose numbers and goods outrivaled even those of Paris. The sheer size of London added weight to its influence. In the eighteenth century, it was one of the largest cities (with a population of approximately 700,000) in the world. London towered above the provincial cities of Britain and America. It was more than twenty times the size of America's largest, Philadelphia. It was the model for provincial cities throughout the British Empire as they aspired to acquire the new leisured urban culture of Georgian England.

What all the American colonies had most in common was their British heritage, but by the late colonial period it was really London, as opposed to England or Britain, that most colonists knew something about. Americans in the colonial period knew from afar London's best-known features and its most famous citizens. Colonial newspapers fed a continuous American appetite for London news, including not only politics and trade, but also court functions, stage gossip, London crime, and other everyday events in the Great City. Essays from The Spectator, with their colorful descriptions of the life of London town, were frequently reprinted in the colonial papers of the day. Material evidence of London's cultural preeminence could be encountered everywhere in the colonies. The works of the galaxy of authors who formed Dr. Samuel Johnson's famous Literary Club (1764) were widely read. The trinity of George Handel, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and David Garrick were held up as the standards in music, painting, and theatre, respectively. The productions of the London stage were easily the most popular shows in the infant theatres of the colonies. London fashions were eagerly copied, even in the American countryside. The vast majority of colonists who traveled to Britain were either destined for London or passed through it.

center for the professions

With its unrivalled concentration of talent and ability, London was the center of creative excellence within the English-speaking world. Therefore, it drew ambitious colonists from all walks of life: newspapermen, artists, scientists, botanists, poets, novelists, anyone who aspired to reach the top of their profession. Exposure to London standards could have more value than any provincial training. Benjamin Franklin's first trip to London (1724–1726) was as a printer's apprentice. Colonial artists came to London to study under Pennsylvanian Benjamin West (1738–1820). West helped to found Britain's Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 and became historical painter to the king in 1772.

Throughout his career, West offered support to aspiring American artists in London. For this he came to be seen as the father of American art. Britain's foremost scientific institution, the Royal Society of London (1660), was the most important clearing-house for the collection and dissemination of scientific knowledge in the English-speaking world, facilitating the exchange of knowledge throughout the British Empire and between British, American, and European scientists. It was the inspiration for the American Philosophical Society (1744). Its news and publications were followed in the colonies. In the two decades preceding American independence, American memberships in the society increased under the patronage of Benjamin Franklin (resident in London in 1757–1762, 1764–1775) and Dr. John Fothergill. Although Edinburgh was the foremost university for medical studies in eighteenth-century Britain, London's hospitals were still considered as an integral part of a thorough medical training. The first medical school in America, at the University of Pennsylvania, was established in 1765 with the assistance of Dr. Fothergill, a London philanthropist.

Throughout the colonial period, the bishop of London was the Head of the Church of England for America. There were no American bishops until after the War of Independence. All Anglican clergymen from the colonies had therefore to go to London for ordination.

center for education

Even with the approach of the American Revolution, an English education was considered to be the best apprenticeship for genteel colonial society. An indeterminate number of children of wealthy colonists—mostly boys—were sent to English schools. Many of these schools were in or near London. Colonial youths who attended Oxford or Cambridge came to London to visit, tour, and get into trouble. Wealthy colonists sent their sons to study law at London's Inns of Court. Between 1755 and 1775, over one hundred mainland Americans registered to study at the Inns, a substantial increase over the earlier colonial period. Most of these were from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina. An equal number of West Indian youths (still counted as Americans prior to American independence) also attended. Absentee planters and their families from the southern mainland colonies and the West Indies were a conspicuous presence in London by the late colonial period. At any one time from 1763 to 1775, at least one thousand resided there. This made London the foremost meeting place in the empire for the rich and powerful from Britain's many American colonies.

the sordid side

But London also represented the worst of the Old World to American visitors. Its slums (almost non-existent in the largely rural colonies), its conspicuous extremes of rich and poor, empty consumerism, and appalling death rates suggested to some that Britain's greatness was on the verge of decline. This was hardly an exclusively American insight, but particularly with the approach of the Revolution, Americans contrasted London's sordid side with their own supposedly purer provincial lifestyles. The political career of John Wilkes in the city during the 1760s also brought into focus American fears of corruption in metropolitan politics. When Wilkes was denied his seat in Parliament after his election by Middlesex County in 1769, the disaffected in the colonies drew parallels between Parliament's infringement of voters' rights in England and its attempt to deny the colonies the right to be taxed by their own representatives.

In the thirty years following American independence, London in many respects remained America's financial and cultural capital. The United States was never to have a single dominant metropolis like London or Paris, but by the latter half of the nineteenth century, New York, Boston, and Washington had overtaken London's place as America's financial, cultural, and political centers.

See alsoAmericans in Europe .


Flavell, Julie M. "The 'School for Modesty and Humility': Colonial American Youth in London and their Parents, 1755–1775," Historical Journal 42 (1999): 377–403.

——. Benjamin Franklin's London. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2005.

Silverman, Kenneth. A Cultural History of the American Revolution: Painting, Music, Literature, and the Theatre in the Colonies and the United States from the Treaty of Paris to the Inauguration of George Washington, 1763–1789. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987

Temperley, Howard. Britain and America since Independence. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

Julie Flavell


views updated May 17 2018

LONDON A city on the River Thames in southern England, the ancient capital of England and the capital and seat of government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The city has experienced many languages: CELTIC, the LATIN of Roman Britain, OLD ENGLISH, NORMAN FRENCH, MIDDLE and MODERN ENGLISH, and the languages of immigrants, diplomats, merchants, and visitors. It is, in the late 20c, one of the world's great cosmopolitan and polyglot cities, identified in particular with four varieties of English: KING'S/Queen's ENGLISH, BBC ENGLISH, COCKNEY and more recently, ESTUARY ENGLISH. The primacy of London (in England, in the United Kingdom, and in the British Empire) has in the past given a certain status to the language used there. However, the city did not play a major part in Old English culture until the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042–66). Prior to that period, Winchester to the south-west was the seat of the Saxon kings and West Saxon was the literary dialect. Through the medieval period, London grew in importance, and the triumph of Middle English over Norman French in the 14c gave preference to the variety of the East Midland dialect that was becoming current in London. The poet Geoffrey CHAUCER, a Londoner of the time, generally used slightly older and more southern forms, with traces of Kentish.

Capital and provinces

The comparative stability of the Tudor period, with London as the seat of the royal court and major litigation, brought still greater regard for its superiority in language. In 1589, Puttenham advised the use of ‘the vsual speach of the Court, and that of London and the shires lying about London with lx [sixty] myles, and not much aboue’ (The Arte of English Poesie, 1589). The introduction of dialect speakers in drama, like Shakespeare's Welsh captain Fluellen and Scots captain Jamy in Henry V, and the use of ‘stage southern’ as affected by Edgar in King Lear, showed that Londoners were aware of their distinctive speech and amused by other varieties. The tendency is even more marked in later 17c comedy, in which country characters are differentiated by their speech: the restored Stuart court and the London location of groups like the new Royal Society made the city seem ever more significant than ‘the provinces’. Discussions about the correct forms of English and the possibility of an ACADEMY to regulate the language were carried on mainly by London speakers.

Perhaps because London usage was taken for granted by so many of the influential, there is not an extensive record of its nature before the 19c. When dialogue was written for plays or novels, only speakers of other dialects were marked by deviant spelling, the established ORTHOGRAPHY being used for the rest. The hymnographer Isaac Watts, in his Art of Reading and Writing English (1721), dismisses the ‘dialect or corrupt speech that obtains in the several counties of England’ and lists words that are written differently from ‘their common and frequent pronunciation in the City of London’. He adds that ‘there are some other corruptions in the pronouncing of several words by many of the citizens themselves’ and cites among others yourn for ‘yours’, squeedge for ‘squeeze’, yerb for ‘herb’. However, Samuel Pegge notes, in Anecdotes of the English Language (1803), words whose pronunciation ‘is a little deformed by the natives of London’; as well as Cockney features like the confusion of /v/ and /w/, he mentions some that ‘savour rather of an affected refinement’ like daater for ‘daughter’ and saace for ‘sauce’.

London English

True Cockney is relatively limited, though some of its features are shared by Londoners who are not themselves Cockneys. Some vowel and diphthong sounds, notably the nasalization of the diphthong /au/ as in now and the changing of /ei/ to /ai/ which makes paper sound like piper, are frequently heard, as is the dropping of initial h (We're 'appy to 'elp you). Characteristics of neighbouring counties are heard in London, particularly in the outer suburbs, which have penetrated into what were once rural areas of Surrey, Kent, and Essex. It would be an acute or very bold observer who could guarantee to analyse all the features of speech among a random selection of Londoners

The speech of educated Londoners is not necessarily to be equated with RECEIVED PRONUNCIATION, but this is the model which has traditionally been followed by the upwardly mobile. In many instances, however, there appears in the later 20c to be a levelling-out in the speech patterns of younger, educated Londoners of many backgrounds, including RP, into a distinctive ‘Estuary’ accent and voice quality. Currently, however, the situation is complex, and London speech ranges from ‘core’ Cockney usage through a wide variety of intermediate forms to RP and forms of RP that some may regard as prestigious and others as affected or ‘posh’.



views updated May 18 2018


In 1450 London already had a thousand years of history as a port. England's capital, it had benefited from its inland site on the tidal river Thames, within easy reach of the European continent and with road and sea transport links to the rest of the country. London was ideally placed to handle cloth and wool, which dominated England's late medieval export trade. London linked particularly with Antwerp, the then-dynamic hub of northern Europe's trade, which supplied in return a mix of foodstuffs, raw materials, cheap consumer goods, and luxuries. An English consortium, the Merchant Adventurers, controlled the cross-channel route, but the complex network of credit and connection underpinning London's wider trade depended much on foreign merchants and financiers. English merchants seemingly lacked comparable business sophistication and enterprise.

Under Elizabeth I (1533–1603) and James I (1566–1625) London began to come into its own as a commercial city. With the closure of Antwerp (1568) and religious strife on the Continent, London was well placed to become the new European entrepôt and to exploit opportunities across the Atlantic and in the East. London-based chartered companies, including the East India Company (1600) and the Virginia Company (1606), financed overseas ventures. Such enterprise forged strong links in London between government, finance, trade, and shipping—connections further strengthened by eighteenth-century colonial expansion. By 1700 London handled over two-thirds of England's imports, four-fifths of its exports, and an even greater share of re-exports. Over the following century its overseas trade tripled. Such growth was not just a consequence of a widening international economy. Measured by the standards of the day, London was a huge city, approaching a million inhabitants in 1800. As well as its developing demand for the new luxuries, sugar, tea, and tobacco, the metropolis provided a ready market for basic foodstuffs, wines, timber, tallow, and other overseas products. By the nineteenth century London's earlier concentration on the export of domestic textile products had given way to a specialization in imports for its own consumers, or for transhipment to other parts of Britain or abroad.

These developments were linked to others. Markets and profit provided the motive for trade, but ships provided the means. London merchants invested in shipping, much of which was built in Thames shipyards. Commerce stimulated merchant banking, and the acceptance of bills of exchange and other credit instruments as a way of doing business. A coffeehouse where those with interests in trade gathered to network gave its name to Lloyd's, a society of underwriters insuring ships and cargoes which became the world's largest insurance market; to Lloyd's Register (1784), which classified vessels; and to a newspaper, Lloyd's List (1692), which provided marine intelligence. Another coffeehouse produced the Baltic Exchange (1744) shipping market. Such institutions, together with a number of formal and informal commercial associations, gave to London's business community–the City–a central presence in the nation's financial and political life. Its influence was to persist into the twenty-first century.

In the eighteenth century London remained a river port close to the commercial heart of the capital, but as trade grew it became congested and inadequate. In the early 1800s several privately owned docks catering for foreign trades were opened, followed later in the century by more docks in response to the needs of steam shipping for larger and deeper berths. Along with extra water space came the lining of the docks and river with warehouses and transit sheds housing every conceivable article of world trade, but particularly the products of the British Empire. All these facilities remained in the hands of competing private businesses until financial problems transferred ownership to a public body, the Port of London Authority (1908).

These developments physically extended operations beyond the ancient port site close to the center of London. Serving the needs of the world's largest consumer market, food-processing industries such as sugar refining and flour milling took root along the Thames waterfront. These, together with the many thousands of casually employed manual laborers needed to handle cargoes, ensured that trade continued to shape London's development. Nevertheless, London's diverse, multifaceted economy and its role as the center of government meant that it had ceased to be a port city. Rather, it was a metropolis with a port.

Overseas trade continued to shape the fortunes of the City of London, but by the late nineteenth century the nature of the connection was altering. Its cluster of firms providing maritime services benefited directly from the trading links with the empire and from the growth of the international economy. The City became the world's leading financial center. What had begun as a sector primarily servicing the trade and shipping of London, and then of the country as a whole, now provided banking, brokerage, insurance, and legal services to the rest of the world. The independent strength of London's maritime service sector was demonstrated in the late twentieth century, when it survived both the demise of the port of London and the decline of the United Kingdom's merchant fleet.

London's established pattern of overseas trade endured until the late twentieth century, and it continued to be the greatest warehousing center in the world, despite some loss of transhipment business to Continental ports. Having made a remarkable recovery from the damage of World War II, London's postwar prospects seemed assured, but in the 1970s the effects of decolonization, Britain's entry to the European Economic Community, and containerization of cargoes led to loss of business and closure of London's docks. Many miles inland and hemmed in by a great metropolis, they were no match for less unionized British ports, or for container facilities downriver at Tilbury, which took over as the new, privatized port for London. London's derelict former docklands were redeveloped into office space and quality housing, but, although London itself was no longer a center for overseas trade, its continued role as the leading supplier of services to world shipping ensured that the historic link with trade was not entirely lost.

SEE ALSO Agriculture; Banking; Bristol; Cargoes, Freight; Cargoes, Passenger; Chambers of Commerce; Containerization; Empire, British; Ethnic Groups, Huguenots; Ethnic Groups, Jews; Finance, Credit and Money Lending; Finance, Insurance; Free Ports; Glasgow; Harbors;Liverpool;Lloyd's of London;Markets, Stock;Petroleum;Port Cities;Slavery and the African Slave Trade;United Kingdom.


Beier, A. L., and Finlay, Roger. London 1500–1700: The Making of the Metropolis. London: Longman, 1986.

Bird, J. H. The Geography of the Port of London. London: Hutchinson, 1957.

Corporation of the City of London. Financial Services Clustering and Its Significance for London. London: Corporation of the City of London, 2003.

Kynaston, David. The City of London, Vol. 1: A World of Its Own, 1815–1890. London: Chatto and Windus, 1994.

McCusker, John J. "The Early History of Lloyd's List." Historical Research: The Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 64 (October 1991): 427–431.

Porter, Roy. London: A Social History. London: Penguin Books, 1994.

Sarah Palmer


views updated May 14 2018


London was the principal city of England during the Renaissance. At the time, it consisted of the City of London, Westminster, and some suburbs. The City of London was a small, densely populated area originally developed by the Romans. By the Renaissance, the City boasted St. Paul's Cathedral, the Guildhall, the shops of rich merchants, docks, and warehouses. London Bridge connected the City with Southwark and other areas across the Thames River.

Several miles upstream a second center of population grew up around Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster. Once a royal residence, the Palace of Westminster housed law courts and St. Stephen's Chapel during the Renaissance. The chapel served as a meeting place for the House of Commons, Parliament's lower house. Smaller buildings for other government offices crowded up against the palace. Most of England's business was conducted in this administrative complex.

Westminster and the City of London were linked by the Strand, the main street that paralleled the Thames River. Along the Strand stood the palaces or town houses of a number of bishops, including York Place. This was the home of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a key adviser of Henry VIII. After Wolsey fell from power, the king had York Place converted into Whitehall Palace, which became a royal residence.

Across the Thames from the City of London, Southwark contained many theaters and other entertainment sites. These included the Bear Garden and the Globe Theater, which offered plays by William Shakespeare and others. Lambeth Palace, across the river from Westminster, had been the residence of the archbishops of Canterbury since the 1100s. Ferries and barges provided regular passage across the Thames, linking Lambeth and Westminster.

Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church brought many changes to England in the 1500s. He seized many monasteries and other religious buildings, but Westminster Abbey was too important to be touched. The site of royal coronations and funerals and the tombs of most of England's medieval* monarchs, it remained a national shrine. Most other religious buildings fell, becoming commercial sites or residences for members of the aristocracy*.

Many bishops lost their town houses at this time as well. A number of them were demolished to make space for Somerset House. A wealthy aristocrat's home, Somerset House was one of the earliest English structures to show the influence of the Renaissance and to incorporate elements of classical* architecture.

The appearance of London changed even more dramatically in the 1600s under the Stuart dynasty. Development along the Thames River and the Strand continued and increased. The earl of Bedford hired the famous English architect Inigo Jones to build a great public square based on those in France and Italy. In his design, Jones surrounded the square with elegant town houses for members of the aristocracy who wanted houses in London as well as estates in the countryside. Jones produced some of the finest houses in London. His designs established a pattern that would be widely copied in later centuries.

Jones also worked for the royal family, and his love of classical and Renaissance architecture became most apparent in his designs for the Stuarts. He drew plans for a reconstruction of Whitehall Palace, but because of a lack of finances, only one part of it was actually completed. Jones's design for this structure, known as Banqueting House, helped establish a pure classical style of architecture in England.

The population of London increased dramatically during the course of the Renaissance. With perhaps 100,000 residents in 1500, it was smaller than European cities such as Paris, Milan, Venice, and Naples. However, by 1600 London had grown to 200,000 inhabitants, and the population reached about 400,000 in 1650. This growth, the result of continuing immigration from the countryside, occurred despite very high mortality in London. By the mid-1600s, London had become the largest city in western Europe.

(See alsoArchitecture; Cities and Urban Life; England. )

see color plate 9, vol. 3

* medieval

referring to the Middle Ages, a period that began around a.d. 400 and ended around 1400 in Italy and 1500 in the rest of Europe

* aristocracy

privileged upper classes of society; nobles or the nobility

* classical

in the tradition of ancient Greece and Rome