Wednesday, 5 August 2009

London /Lundene: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Novels ****

London (pronounced /ˈlʌndən/) is the de facto capital of the United Kingdom. It has been an influential city for two millennia and its history goes back to its founding by the Romans. The city's core, the ancient City of London, still retains its limited medieval boundaries. However, since at least the nineteenth century, the name "London" has also referred to the whole metropolis that has developed around it. Today the bulk of this conurbation forms the London metropolitan region and the Greater London administrative area, with its own elected mayor and assembly.

St. James Park looking towards Buckingham Palace

London is one of the world's foremost global cities alongside New York City and the largest financial centre alongside New York City. Central London is home to the headquarters of more than half of the UK's top 100 listed companies (the FTSE 100) and more than 100 of Europe's 500 largest. The city's influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, the arts and culture in general contributes to its global position. It is a major tourist destination for both domestic and overseas visitors. London hosted the 1908 and 1948 Summer Olympics and will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Palace of Westminster and Tower Bridge;Canary Wharfe and the 'Dome', O2 Arena

the historic settlement of Greenwich,

Greenwich Royal Naval College, and Park

Greenwich Royal Observatory

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Palm House and the site comprising of, Westminster Abbey West door

and the white purity of St. Margaret's Church, West Front.

London has a wide range of peoples, cultures, and religions, and more than 300 languages are spoken within the city. In July 2007, it had an official population of 7,556,900 within the boundaries of Greater London making it the most populous municipality in the European Union. The Greater London Urban Area (the second largest in the EU) has a population of 8,278,251. While the metropolitan area (the largest in the EU) has an estimated total population of between 12 million and 14 million.

The public transport network, administered by Transport for London, is the most extensive in the world, London Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest airport by number of international passengers and the airspace is the busiest of any city in the world. London was named by New York Magazine as the capital of the world for the 21st century

Heathrow Airport

Map City of London

+City of Westminster
1. Kensington
2. Chelsea*
3. Hammersmith and Fulham
4. Wandsworth
5. Lambeth
6. Southwark
7. Tower Hamlets
8. Hackney
9. Islington
10. Camden
11. Brent
12. Ealing
13. Hounslow
14. Richmond upon Thames
15. Kingston upon Thames*
16. Merton
17. Sutton
18. Croydon
19. Bromley
20. Lewisham
21. Greenwich
22. Bexley
23. Havering
24. Barking
25. Dagenham
26 Redbridge
27. Newham
28. Waltham Forest
29. Haringey
30. Enfield
31. Barnet
32. Harrow
33. Hillingdon
+ not a London borough
* Royal Borough

Medal of Constantius I capturing London (inscribed on the reverse as "LON") in 296 after defeating Allectus, Beaurains hoard.

etymology of London remains a mystery.
The earliest etymological explanation can be attributed to Geoffrey of Monmouth in Historia Regum Britanniae. The name is described as originating from King Lud, who had allegedly taken over the city and named it Kaerlud. This would have had a derivational form Kaerludein, which, by aphaeresis, eventually developed as London. Many other theories have been advanced over the centuries, most of them deriving the name from Welsh or British. It is also believed the name "London" comes from the celtic word "Lyndon," which means "shadowy waters," referring to the Thames River.

Although there is evidence of scattered Brythonic settlements in the area, the first major settlement was founded by the Romans in 43 AD as Londinium, following the Roman conquest of Britain. This Londinium lasted for just seventeen years. Around 61, the Iceni tribe led by Queen Boudica stormed this first London, burning it to the ground. The next, heavily planned incarnation of the city prospered and superseded Colchester as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia in 100. At its height in the 2nd century, Roman London had a population of around 60,000.

Guthrum, AEthelstan ll,Viking King of Mercia Penny

During the 600s, the Anglo-Saxons had created a new settlement called Lundenwic approximately 1,000 yards (910 m) upstream from the old Roman city, around what is now Covent Garden.

View down to Covent Garden Market

For there was a harbour at the mouth of the River Fleet for fishing and trading, and this trading grew until the city was overcome by the Vikings and forced to relocate the city back to the location of the Roman Londinium to use its walls for protection. Viking attacks continued to increase around the rest of South East England, until 886 when Alfred the Great recaptured London and made peace with the Danish leader, Guthrum. The original Saxon city of Lundenwic became Ealdwic ("old city"), a name surviving to the present day as Aldwych, which is in the modern City of Westminster.

Waldorf Hotel at Aldwych

Map of London in 1300, showing the medieval boundaries of the City of London

In a retaliatory attack, Ethelred's army achieved victory by pulling down London Bridge with the Danish garrison on top, and English control was re-established.

Canute took control of the English throne in 1016, controlling the city and country until 1035, when his death resulted in a reversion to Saxon control under his pious stepson Edward the Confessor, who re-founded Westminster Abbey and the adjacent Palace of Westminster.

Original Westminster Palace

By this time, London had become the largest and most prosperous city in England, although the official seat of government was still at Winchester.

Following a victory at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror, the then Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England in the newly finished Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. William granted the citizens of London special privileges, while building what is now known as the Tower of London, in the south-east corner of the city, to keep them under control.

The Great Exhibition
Crystal Palace, 1885

In 1097, William II began the building of Westminster Hall, close by the abbey of the same name. The hall became the basis of a new Palace of Westminster, the prime royal residence throughout the Middle Ages. Westminster became the seat of the royal court and government (persisting until the present day), while its distinct neighbour, the City of London, was a centre of trade and commerce and flourished under its own unique administration, the Corporation of London. London grew in wealth and population during the Middle Ages. In 1100 its population was around 18,000; by 1300 it had grown to nearly 100,000. King Edward I issued an edict in 1290, expelling all Jews from England. Before the edict, there was an increasing population of Jews, whereas after this time, the population of Jews began to drop considerably.
Poll of the Dead 1616

Disaster struck during the Black Death in the mid-14th century, when London lost nearly a third of its population.

Richard ll meeting the rebels of the Peasants Revolt

Apart from the invasion of London during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, London remained relatively untouched by the various civil wars during the Middle Ages, such as the first and second Barons' Wars and the Wars of the Roses.
After the successful defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, political stability in England allowed London to grow further. In 1603, James VI of Scotland came to the throne of England, essentially uniting the two countries.

Leaders of the Gun Powder Plot

His enactment of harsh anti-Catholic laws made him unpopular, and an assassination attempt was made on 5 November 1605—the well-known Gunpowder Plot.

The Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London destroyed many parts of the city in 1666.
Plague caused extensive problems for London in the early 17th century, culminating in the Great Plague in 1665–1666 that killed 70,000 to 100,000 people, up to a fifth of London's population. This was the last major outbreak in England, possibly thanks to the disastrous fire of 1666.

Samuel Pepys

The Great Fire of London broke out in the original City and quickly swept through London's wooden buildings, destroying large swathes of the city. A first hand narrative of both plague and fire was provided by Sir Samuel Pepys.

Sir Christopher Wren

Rebuilding took over ten years, largely under direction of a Commission appointed by King Charles II, chaired by Sir Christopher Wren, and supervised by Robert Hooke as newly appointed Surveyor of London.

Samuel Johnson
In the 18th century, Samuel Johnson, author of A Dictionary of the English Language, famously wrote about the city: “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

Following London's growth in the 18th century, it became the world's largest city from about 1831 to 1925. Rising traffic congestion on city centre roads led to the creation of the world's first rapid transit.

Greater London City Hall

The Metropolitan Board of Works oversaw infrastructure expansion. It was then replaced by the County of London, overseen by the London County Council, London's first elected city-wide administration.
The Blitz and other bombing by the German Luftwaffe during World War II killed over 30,000 Londoners and destroyed large tracts of housing and other buildings across London. In 1965 London's political boundaries were expanded to take into account the growth of the urban area.

West and central London seen from SPOT satellite

London can be geographically defined in a number of ways; the situation was once open to periodic legal debate. At London's core is the small, ancient City of London which is commonly known as 'the City' or 'the Square Mile'. London's metropolitan area grew considerably during the Victorian era and again during the Interwar period, but expansion halted in the 1940s because of World War II and Green Belt legislation, and the area has been largely static since. The London region of England, also commonly known as Greater London, is the area administered by the Greater London Authority. The urban sprawl of the conurbation — or Greater London Urban Area — covers a roughly similar area, with a slightly larger population. Beyond this is the vast London commuter belt.

Map of Central London

Forty percent of Greater London is covered by the London postal district, within which 'LONDON' forms part of the postal address. The London telephone area code covers a larger area, similar in size to Greater London, although some outer districts are omitted and some places just outside are included. The area within the orbital M25 motorway is sometimes used to define the "London area" and the Greater London boundary has been aligned to it in places.

Inner London

Greater London is split for some purposes into Inner London and Outer London. Informally, the city is split into North, South, East, West and often also Central London.

Outer London

The Metropolitan Police District, city-wide local government area and London transport area have varied over time, but broadly coincide with the Greater London boundary. The Romans may have marked the centre of Londinium with the London Stone, still visible on Cannon Street.

London Stone

Eleanors Cross at Charing Cross

The coordinates of the nominal centre of London (traditionally considered to be the original Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross,near the junction of Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

View Down Whitehall

Whitehall) are approximately 51°30′29″N 00°07′29″W / 51.50806°N 0.12472°W / 51.50806; -0.12472. Trafalgar Square has also become a point for celebrations and protests.

Status City of London
Within London, both the City of London and the City of Westminster have City status and both the City of London and the remainder of Greater London are the ceremonial counties. The current area of Greater London was historically part of the counties of Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire. Unlike most capital cities, London's status as the capital of the UK has never been granted or confirmed officially — by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the UK's unwritten constitution. The capital of England was moved to London from Winchester as the Palace of Westminster developed in the 12th and 13th centuries to become the permanent location of the royal court, and thus the political capital of the nation. According to the Collins English Dictionary definition of 'the seat of government,' London is not the capital of England, as England does not have its own government. However according to the Oxford English Reference dictionary definition of 'the most important town...' and many other authorities, London is the capital of England.


River Thames Navigational Map

Greater London covers an area of 607 square miles (1,570 km2). Its primary geographical feature is the Thames, a navigable river which crosses the city from the south-west to the east.

View of London from Parliament Hill

The Thames Valley is a floodplain surrounded by gently rolling hills including Parliament Hill, Addington Hills, and Primrose Hill.

View of London from Addington Hills

View of London from Primrose Hill showing the GPO Tower dominating the skyline

The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river with extensive marshlands; at high tide, its shores reached five times their present width.

River Fleet Map, runs under London into the Thames its mouth maintaining a settlement

Since the Victorian era it has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground.

The Thames is a tidal river, and London is vulnerable to flooding. The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level by the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound.

Thames Water Barrier

In 1974, a decade of work began on the construction of the Thames Barrier across the Thames at Woolwich to deal with this threat. While the barrier is expected to function as designed until roughly 2030, concepts for its future enlargement or redesign are already being discussed.

Woolwich Ferry

London viewed from the Monument

London has a temperate marine climate (Koppen climate classification Cfb), like much of the British Isles, so the city rarely sees extremely high or low temperatures. Summers are warm with average high temperatures of 21 °C (70 °F) - 24 °C (75 °F) and lows of 11 °C (52 °F) - 14 °C (57 °F). But temperatures can exceed 25 °C (77 °F) on many days, and in almost every year they exceed 30 °C (86 °F) on some days. The highest temperature ever recorded was 39 °C (102 °F) on 10th August 2003. Winters in London are chilly, but rarely below freezing with daytime highs around 8 °C (46 °F) - 12 °C (54 °F), while spring has mild days and cool evenings. The lowest ever recorded temperature is −10 °C (14.0 °F). Autumn is usually mild but often unsettled as colder air from the north and warmer air from the south meet, occasionally deep depressions form like the Great Storm of 1987.

Trooping the Colour

London is a relatively dry city with regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year, with average precipitation of 583.6 millimetres (22.98 in) every year. Snow is relatively uncommon, particularly because heat from the urban area can make London up to 5 °C (9 °F) warmer than the surrounding areas in winter. Some snowfall, however, is usually seen up to a few times a year. The snowfall of February 2009 was the heaviest London had seen for 18 years. London is in USDA Hardiness zone 9, and AHS Heat Zone 2.

Royal Albert Hall Rooftops

In the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, London was noted for its dense fogs and smogs. Following the deadly Great Smog of 1952, the Clean Air Act 1956 was passed, leading to the decline of such severe pollution in the capital. London has the most skyscrapers in Europe with 570 buildings, most of them located in Isle of Dogs and City of London.


Saint Paul's Cathedral

London has traditionally been dominated by Christianity, and has a large number of churches, particularly in the City of London. The well-known St Paul's Cathedral in the City and Southwark Cathedral south of the river are Anglican administrative centres, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, principal bishop of the Church of England and worldwide Anglican Communion, has his main residence at Lambeth Palace in the London Borough of Lambeth. Important national and royal ceremonies are shared between St Paul's and Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is not to be confused with nearby Westminster Cathedral, which is the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in England and Wales. Despite the prevalence of Anglican churches, observance is very low within the Anglican denomination, although church attendance, particularly at evangelical Anglican churches in London, has started to increase.


St. Mary le Bow Church, you had to live within the hearing
of Bow bells to be a cockney

Traditionally the London accent has been given the famous Cockney label, and was similar to many accents of the South East of England, developing a unique form of slang known as Cockney Rhyming Slang. The accent of a 21st century Londoner varies widely; what is becoming more and more common amongst the under 30s however is some fusion of Cockney, Received Pronunciation, and a whole array of 'ethnic' accents, in particular Caribbean, which form an accent labelled Multicultural London English (MLE).

Pearly King and Queen of the Cockneys

Literature and film

Charles Dickens (1812–1870), whose works formed a pervasive image of Victorian London.

London has been the setting for many works of literature. The literary centres of London have traditionally been hilly Hampstead and (since the early 20th century) Bloomsbury. Two writers closely associated with the city are the diarist Samuel Pepys, noted for his eyewitness account of the Great Fire, and Charles Dickens, whose representation of a foggy, snowy, grimy London of street sweepers and pickpockets has been a major influence on people's vision of early Victorian London. The earlier (1722) A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe is a fictionalisation of the events of the 1665 Great Plague.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare spent a large part of his life living and working in London; his contemporary Ben Jonson was also based in London, and some of his work — most notably his play The Alchemist — was set in the state. Later important depictions of London from the 19th and early 20th centuries are the afore-mentioned Dickens novels, and Arthur Conan Doyle's illustrious Sherlock Holmes stories.

A modern writer pervasively influenced by the city is Peter Ackroyd, in works such as London: The Biography, The Lambs of London and Hawksmoor. London was also the setting of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.

Pinewood Studio's

London has played a significant role in the film industry, and has major studios at Pinewood, Ealing, Shepperton, Elstree and Leavesden, as well as an important special effects and post-production community centred in Soho in central London. Working Title Films has its headquarters in London. The city also hosts a number of performing arts schools, including The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), the Central School of Speech and Drama (alumni: Judi Dench and Laurence Olivier) and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (alumni: Jim Broadbent). The London Film Festival is held each year in October.

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