London travel guide



London Travel Guide

London History

The London’s history is a absorbing one, the name London comes from the Latin name Londinium as London was established as a town by the Romans around AD 43, tough there are evidence of Bronze Age and Celtic settlement. The Romans where temporally removed by the native Iceni tribe of Celts, led by their Queen Boudicca, in AD 60. However the Romans returned and quickly rebuilt their settlement.

Londinium soon became the capital of Roman Britain (Britannia). It boasted major public buildings, including a Basilica, a Forum, a governor's palace, temples, offices, shops and a Wall built around the city to protect it from further invasion. The Wall was about 2 miles in perimeter, 20 feet high and 9 feet thick, portions of which can still be seen today in Coopers Row. The Romans ruled in London until 410 AD.

By the 5th century, Londinium went into quick decline and was practically abandoned by Romans. From the mid-6th century, the London area was integrated into the East Saxons kingdom. Anglo-Saxons settled just west of Londinium and formed the town of Lundenwic ("London settlement"). Christianity was introduced to the city and London received Mellitus, its first post-Roman bishop, Mellitus founded the first St. Paul's Cathedral.

London was occasionally attacked by Danish Vikings in the 9th century. There were Viking attacks on London in 842, 851, 865, and, in 871, London may have come under Danes power for a period. In 878 however, English forces led by King Alfred the Great defeated the Danes, when the Vikings were driven out, the city walls were repaired, a citizen army was established, and Æthelred, Alfred's son-in-law, was appointed Governor of London.

In 994 the Vikings attacked unsuccessfully London again, but numerous raids followed. Æthelred's son Edmund Ironside initially managed to hold back the invaders, though; he was finally forced to share power with Cnut (Canute). When Edmund died Cnut became the sole King of England. Cnut managed to unite the Vikings and Saxons. By 1042, Edward the Confessor took up the throne, his rule brought French influence and trade. Edward refunded the abbey at Westminster, and moved his court there.

When Edward died in 1065, his successor, Harold Godwinson, was crowned in the Westminster Abbey. By 1066, William the Conqueror was recognised as King of England, after his victory over Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Much of the nation remained hostile to the new King and, as a result, he was only able to impose their rules by building formidable castles with strong garrisons (the Tower of London, The White Tower, in the centre of the present complex, is the oldest and most impressive buildings from this period). William died in 1087 from injuries sustained while campaigning in France.

In 1097, William II, the son of William the Conqueror began the construction of Westminster Hall. When William II died, his younger brother Henry succeeded him. When Henry died in 1135, Henry's nephew Stephen was crowned King in preference to Henry's daughter Mathilda. After Stephen, Mathilda's son Henry, known as Henry Plantagenet became king.

In 1176 construction began on a new stone London Bridge to replace the original Roman one. This bridge was to remain the only one in London until 1739. Henry died in 1189 whilst fighting against his son Richard. Richard eventually become Richard I.

London lost at least two-thirds of its inhabitants (at least 60,000 people) during the Black Death in the mid-14th century.

Henry VII became King in 1485, followed by Henry VIII. They were the first Tudor kings. Under the Tudor rule, London became wealthy, bustling city. Henry's son Henry VIII made Whitehall Palace the principle royal residence in the city and also built the St James’s Palace. He is also famous for its “Dissolution of the Monasteries”, after the Roman Catholic Church refused to grant him a divorce. During the reign of Elizabeth l, since 1558, London was prosperous and successful city.

By the late 16th century, theatre became popular though were banned in the city of London, the theatres moved across the Thames to Southwark. The Globe Theatre, scene of many of William Shakespeare's plays, was built on the South Bank in 1599, though it burned down in 1613. Queen Elizabeth I loved plays, which were performed for her in private at Court, and approved of public performances.

Unfortunately, many of London's Tudor buildings were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

The first Stuart King, James I, came to the throne in 1603; the preparations for his coronation were interrupted by a brutal plague epidemic. James I united England and Scotland under one king. In 1605, a group of Catholic conspirators planned to blow up both him and the Houses of Parliament. The plot was discovered.

By 1610, London was a busy capital city; Old St Paul's, old London Bridge and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre were the main buildings.

Charles I acceded to the throne in 1625. In 1635 he opened the royal reserve of Hyde Park to the public and in 1637 created Richmond Park for hunting. Civil war broke out in 1642 between supporters of the king and members of parliament, led by a Puritan called Oliver Cromwell. The civil war ended in defeat for the Royalists. The King was executed in London in 1649 and Britain became a republic known as the Commonwealth of England.

In 1660 the monarchy was returned under Charles II.

The Stuart period was dominated by two disasters, The Great Plague, occurred in 1665 and 1666, during this period perhaps 70,000 persons died, the bubonic plague was brought to London by rats on board trading ships, and followed by another catastrophe. On 2 September 1666 the Great Fire of London swept through and destroyed two thirds of the City. Only Staple Inn in Holborn survives today as an example of what London looked like then. Re-building took over 10 years. Christopher Wren was appointed to rebuild the ruined churches including St Paul's Cathedral. More than 20 of Wren’s churches survive today.

In the winter of 1683 – 1684 a frost fair was held on the Thames.

The 18th century was a period of fast grew in size and population for London. In 1707 an Act of Union was passed merging the Scottish and the English Parliaments, consequently establishing The Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1714, George I became king. In 1750 a second stone bridge over The Thames was added, Westminster Bridge. In 1759 the British Museum opened its doors for the first time. In 1762 George III acquired Buckingham Palace from the Duke of Buckingham.

During the 19th century, London was transformed into the world's largest city and capital of the British Empire. While the city grew wealthy, 19th London was also a city of poverty. Life for the underprivileged was immortalized by Charles Dickens with his novels, notably Oliver Twist. In 1837, Victoria became Queen at the age of 18. The time while she was Queen is called the Victorian era. Many of the buildings in London today were built in Victorian times.

London was transformed by the coming of the railways in the late 1800's; the first railway in London was built from London Bridge to Greenwich in 1836. The Tube opened in 1862. At first carriages were pulled by vapor trains. The system was electrified in 1890-1905.

The London of 1900 had many modern comforts such as electricity, gas heating, telephones, an extensive overground and underground railway network, motorbuses and taxis, a postal service and city police force. The Ritz opened in 1906, Harrods’s new Knightsbridge store in 1905, and Selfridges in 1907.

During World War I, in the fall of 1915, London was attacked for first time. Large numbers of Jewish immigrated to London during the 1930s. In 1939 the World War II broke out and hundreds of thousands of children were moved out of London. The Blitz began in 1940 and destroyed a third part of the City. The heaviest bombing took place between September 1940 and May 1941. London was badly damaged although remarkably St Paul's survived the incendiary bombing.

In the immediate postwar years London's population declined steadily, its established status as a major port also declined radically and a heavy immigration from countries of the old British Empire started. The city appearance changed with new buildings replacing those destroyed in the war. Later, air travel became more important, Heathrow airport opened to commercial flights in 1946.

By the 1960s, London became a centre for the music culture with the raising of UK musicians such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In the 1880s, London saw the birth of the New Wave and Punk scene.

On July 6, 2005 London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics, unfortunately, the next day, there was a series of coordinated bomb blasts on three underground stations and a bus.

London now continues to grow, making it one of the most important world’s cities.

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