The Romans founded London in the year 50 AD, and the city burnt to the ground just ten years later when Queen Boudicca from present-day Norfolk led a major anti-Roman rebellion.
However, the Romans rebuilt, and administered Britain through this capitol city until AD 410. Then the Dark Ages descended on Britain, and London was mainly in ruins for hundreds of years hence. The scattered Roman survivors clung to hordes of old Roman coins lived in hiding until they died from plague or pestilence.
In the 5th century the Anglo-Saxons were in power and rebuilt a city nearby. Christianity arrived around the year 600 AD, and St. Paul’s cathedral was built upon the site of an ancient pagan temple. This was a common method of the church, used to physically supplant themselves in the local community and take charge.
In the area of Charing Cross a thriving trading community setup in the 640s, and other areas of London began to be resettled until the Viking invasions of the 800s.
It wasn’t until the 900s that London was firmly established as an international city of trade and culture, not to mention the government and church establishments.
Since the year 1191 the City of London has held much power, and is still somewhat autonomous to this day. The Lord Mayor is an important position indeed. The Magna Carta of 1215 further expanded the power of the City. From the 13th century, extensive records are available for researchers, into the complex lives of Londoners, at many times the world’s largest and most important capitol city.
The Tudor’s brought a bit of class to London with their age of architectural renaissance. Henry VII started the game with a chapel at one end of what is now Westminster Abbey, which ended up being his own mausoleum. Henry VIII, when he wasn’t madly marrying and executing wives, built some notable palaces, including St. James Palace, and enlarged and made Greenwich Palace into a spectacle for the day.
From the mid-1500s and during the reign of Elizabeth I, London became a cultural center of the world. Famous for playwrights such as Shakespeare, writers, scientists, poets and just plain radical thinkers all converged on London, the center of the world for centuries.
After 1588, and the successful repulsion of the ill-fated Spanish Armada invading fleet, London and Britain became more politically stable and started to look outwards, towards conquering the world.
In 1603 the Stuarts came to power and Scots by the cartful started appearing in London. King James I and Charles I introduced city planning and a clean water supply for the first time. In 1649 Charles I was executed and Cromwell and his gang took power. During his reign, the Jews established themselves in London and created a thriving community.
In 1665 Charles II had re-established the Monarchy, but the country was in ruins from the Great Plague, 68,000 people died in London that year alone. A year later the great fire of 1666 destroyed most of the city. 4/5ths of the buildings burned, including over 13,000 houses. Not until WWII would London again see such destruction and death.
In 1688 King James II fled for his life, and William of Orange and his wife Queen Mary took control of London, and Britain. From this point on all buildings in London were to be built from stone or brick only, and a public works scheme was devised to provide basic services.
During the 1760s the last remaining walls and gates to the city of London were demolished, and the Lord Mayor of London had complete power. In the 1770s freedom of the press led to the establishment of many newspapers on Fleet Street. Opulent architecture became common during the 1780s and the wealth and prosperity of London grew as the British Empire flourished around the globe.
Achieving naval supremacy over Europe at the Battle of Trafalgar began a long period when the sun never set on the British Empire, as it ruled many colonies completely around the globe until after WWII.
During the 1800s the Industrial Revolution further heightened the city’s importance globally, and it became the center of banking and commerce. In 1851 Prince Albert led the nation in celebrating its importance with the “Great Exhibition” under a glass dome in Hyde Park. The era also saw a bounty of culture and scientific learning bursting forth from the universities and colleges in and around London.
Modern times arrived at the turn of the 20th century as London was first electrified, then telephones were installed everywhere. Communications and science took off, until two world wars and a worldwide depression turned the entire planet’s fortunes on end.
Today London is still an important world capitol and center of banking and culture. The modern skyline of London rivals many other cities, and it is a wonderful place to visit. Here you can enjoy modern times and ancient history all in one block, revel in the royalty of it all, or just listen to the free-thinkers at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. There is tremendous variety and life to experience here in London.
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