London is located in the south of England, it is the political and economic capital of the United Kingdom. The city center is 60km from the mouth of the Thames, the river that runs through the city. Its privileged location in the south-east of England has been very beneficial to it, since for a long time it was the richest and most populated region of the country.
The origins of the city
The city was only built after the Roman conquest. Roman rule began in the first century AD and ended in the fifth century AD, when the empire collapsed. In the 3rd century, Londinium and its port housed a larger population, numbering some 500,000 inhabitants.
Ruined by the Anglo-Saxon invasions in the 5th century, it was in the 7th century that the city has become the episcopal see and the capital of the small kingdom of Essex.
The Scandinavian incursions in the 9th century led to the establishment of Danish settlers in the vicinity, which eventually encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit and the sense of commerce in the area, thus becoming the first urban center of the country. Its wealth attracted the Scandinavian and Danish kings who besieged the city and forced it to pay tribute.
Since 1067, the city has exercised the same rights as a county, depending only on royal authority. The Tower of London dates back to that time.
In 1191, the city was constituted as a municipality (“corporation”) by replacing the “portreeve” by the office of mayor. In 1215, London had the privilege of electing its mayor every year.
For a long time, England did not have a fixed capital. From the 13th century, Westminster, a city near London, became one of the main seats of government.. The rise of European trade also greatly helped London to be propelled to the rank of capital of the kingdom.
A growing city
During the 14th century, the Port of London was transformed into a center for the distribution of goods. This activity was reinforced in the 15th century by a powerful textile industry.
From the 16th century until the middle of the 18th century, London benefited from the political centralization and the expansion of maritime trade developed by the Tudors, and subsequently maintained by the Stuarts. During the reign of Henry VIII, the city had more than 100,000 inhabitants. In the middle of the 17th century, its population approached 500,000 people.
In 1665, major urban planning projects were beginning to see the light of day; however, half of the city being surrounded by the old ramparts, the population could not survive the spread of a serious plague epidemic, which led to the death of 70,000 people. The following year, a gigantic fire ravaged four-fifths of the city. Following this, the area that today corresponds to the City was rebuilt; Among the important players in this work, we can mention the architect Wren who participated in the embellishment of new London. From this time the city became the center of English social life, with its palaces, salons, theatres, cultural societies (Royal Society, 1662) and museums (British Museum1753).
London’s expansion was aided by the founding of the Bank of England in 1694.
Much of present-day London dates back to Victorian times. Until the 19th century, the size of the capital was reduced to the limits drawn by the original Roman city, also including Westminster and Mayfair, which were then surrounded by fields. Industrialization has attracted an increasing number of people who have settled on these green spaces. This rapid expansion created serious problems such as the cholera epidemic in 1832, or the “Great Stink” in 1958, caused by the unbearable odors of sewage flows from the Thames, which forced the suspension of some -one of the parliamentary sessions.
From 1750, the population rose from 700,000 inhabitants to more than 4,500,000 people in 1901 (6,600,000 including the suburbs). At the end of the 19th century, London became the capital of finance and international trade.
The administrative needs of a center hosting such a commercial activity favored the creation, in 1888, of a new autonomous territorial unit, the County of London, governed by the “London County Council”. This county was divided into twenty-nine electoral units (the city and its 28 boroughs), but the progressive expansion of the zones quickly pushed back the limits of the county, to form an increasingly extended suburb. At the end of the First World War, the capital’s population began to decline to under 3,500,000 until 1950. In return, the suburb has continued to expand.
In 1963, the London conurbation was divided again, to integrate the historic center and the 32 boroughs of the city.
The most important event in London’s recent history is the UK’s exit from the European Union. Although the vote to leave the EU took place in 2016, the process took time and was finally completed recently.