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209

A Short History of London

Nov 9, 2021
History
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28
minutes
London
Life in the UK
Kings & Queens
Romans
17th Century
18th Century
19th Century
20th Century

It's the capital of the UK and one of the most important cities in the world.

In this episode, we'll look at the amazing history of London, from its Roman roots through to fires, plagues, Nazi attacks, right through to the modern-day.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to go on a whistle stop tour of the history of London.

[00:00:30] London is a city that I imagine you might have visited. Indeed, 30 million people visit London every single year, and are captured by the magic of the city.

[00:00:42] But in today’s episode we are going to go a little deeper than red buses, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square, and go on a journey through the history of London.

[00:00:55] We’ll go all the way back to the founding of London, we’ll explain how there really are two Londons, we’ll meet the Vikings, the plague, great fires, poverty, opportunity, wars, trains, Nazis, and more.

[00:01:12] I’m really excited to share this story with you, so let’s get started right away.

[00:01:19] The story of London starts, like many great stories do, with the Romans, who founded the city they called Londinium, after they invaded the British Isles in AD43.

[00:01:33] Historians are divided over whether there were any prehistoric settlements in the area beforehand, any Bronze age settlements, so we will conveniently skip over that part, and start with the arrival of the Romans.

[00:01:49] Let’s first remind ourselves of exactly where London is.

[00:01:54] Well, you probably know it’s in the south east of the British Isles, about 80km from the south coast of the country, and less than 50km from the east coast.

[00:02:07] Through the middle of modern London runs the Thames river, which runs from west to east, and becomes a large estuary shortly to the east of London. The Thames is a wide, tidal river, meaning it is easy to sail all the way up the river to where modern London is.

[00:02:30] You wouldn’t know it now, but thousands of years ago the site where modern London stands was a boggy meadow, it was the kind of wet ground you sometimes find near a large river.

[00:02:45] So, when the Romans arrived in Britain, they would have sailed up this large river and decided that this area had qualities that would make it a good place to live.

[00:02:57] They built their settlement on the northern bank of the river, on what is now called The City of London, the area that is now a hub for business and finance.

[00:03:10] Construction of Londinium is thought to have started shortly after AD43, and the Romans turned it into, essentially, another Roman town. It would have had a forum, even a gladiatorial amphitheatre, large houses with underfloor heating, and looked similar to many Roman settlements you would find in other parts of Europe.

[00:03:36] No doubt the underfloor heating came in more useful than it did in Sicily, for example, and perhaps it took the Romans a bit of getting used to the climate.

[00:03:48] Londinium prospered. It became a centre for trade, and soon the town, or perhaps we can even call it a city, had around 60,000 inhabitants. Much like it is today, it was a cosmopolitan city. People from all over the Roman empire lived there.

[00:04:09] Some people came to seek fame and fortune, to make money through trade.

[00:04:15] Others would have come there involuntarily; archaeologists have found the remains of slaves from all over the empire.

[00:04:24] The Romans even managed to build a bridge over the wide river Thames. It is even believed to have been able to open to allow large ships to pass through.

[00:04:37] The point is that London, or rather Londinium, was not some poor colonial outpost. It was a centre for trade, it was a desirable place to be, a place where you could make a name for yourself.

[00:04:52] Only around 10 years after Londinium was founded, though, everything had almost been stopped in its tracks. The city was burned to the ground by a native Celtic tribe led by a fierce warrior queen called Boudica. 

[00:05:10] Boudica’s father, a king of a local British tribe, had died, and the Romans had tried to take his land and property. He only had daughters, and Roman law didn’t allow a daughter to inherit anything.

[00:05:27] After Boudica protested, she was flogged, which means beaten with a stick or a whip, and her two daughters were raped.

[00:05:36] Understandably furious about this treatment, she raised an army and marched on Londinium, successfully defeating the Roman soldiers in her way and burning the city to the ground.

[00:05:49] The revolt was eventually put down, but it was a real blow for Roman rule in Britain, and reportedly Nero, who was the Roman emperor at the time, seriously considered withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain.

[00:06:06] He didn’t, and Londonium bounced back, becoming this important outpost of the Roman empire, and the capital of the Roman province of Brittanium.

[00:06:18] After the Romans left Britain, in the 4th century AD, Londinium fell into ruins

[00:06:25] It’s believed that Anglo Saxons started to settle nearby, just to the west of the city, around the 6th century AD, in an area now known as Aldwych, very close to modern day Covent Garden.

[00:06:41] On a linguistic note, the name Aldwych actually comes from the Anglo Saxon, “Ald”, meaning “old”, and “wych” meaning “village” or “farm”.

[00:06:53] The Anglo Saxon settlement was small and unimportant compared to Londinium, and is thought to have had only 7,000 people at its peak. And of course, there was no grand Roman empire, and very limited international trade opportunities compared to several hundred years before.

[00:07:15] In the 9th and 10th centuries the Vikings found that the wide river Thames provided easy access to Britain, and there were frequent raiding parties that made life pretty uncomfortable. 

[00:07:30] London was hard to defend, given that it was so easy to get there by boat, and there are stories of fierce battles between the Anglo Saxons and the Vikings, neither of whom were actually originally from Britain - in the Anglo Saxons case they had come to Britain in the 5th century AD, and the Vikings were of course from modern day Scandinavia.

[00:07:57] Now, moving on to our next serious immigrant to rule over the city, William the Conqueror.

[00:08:04] He arrived in Britain in 1066, and after proving victorious over the Anglo Saxon king, Harold, he proclaimed himself ruler and was crowned king on Christmas Day of 1066. 

[00:08:20] The location for his coronation was to be Westminster Abbey, the magnificent church that had been built by the Anglo-Saxon king, Edward The Confessor, six years beforehand.

[00:08:33] And indeed, ever since the coronation of William the Conqueror 955 years ago, every single English monarch has been crowned in exactly the same place.

[00:08:45] William the Conqueror, who is also known as William I, started construction on his own magnificent building, his own castle, on the original site of Londinium, around 5km to the east of Westminster, along the river.

[00:09:02] His construction is what we now know as The Tower of London.

[00:09:08] You have probably seen pictures of it, and perhaps you have even been there. It is a magnificent fortress, built out of stone. Against the backdrop of modern day skyscrapers, it might not look so large and mighty, but to the local population who would only have been used to one or two storey buildings, it must have looked very imposing, which was the idea of course.

[00:09:38] William made London his capital. 

[00:09:40] The Anglo-Saxon kings had used Winchester, a city to the south west of London, but William had decided that the capital of the country he was to rule should be here, on the Thames river, on the site the Romans had chosen.

[00:09:57] Moving into the Middle Ages, London continued to grow and prosper. A bridge was built between the north of the river, where the settlement was, and the south an area now known as Southwark.

[00:10:12] Its name was London Bridge, and interestingly enough it was the only bridge across the river Thames in London for 500 years - the next bridge wasn’t built until 1739.

[00:10:27] So, when one thinks about the geography of London at this time, and this is really the case until pretty much the 17th century, there was “London”, which was the city of London, and was where there’s the modern day “City”, the financial hub.

[00:10:46] Then there was Westminster, where the abbey was, and where the government business was conducted. And south of the river there really wasn’t very much at all, certainly not compared to today. 

[00:11:00] The south was hard to get to, because the city only contained one bridge, and all of the action happened in a comparatively small area, the city of London, which was not much larger than a square kilometre.

[00:11:16] There was often great tension between Westminster, the seat of the king or queen, and the city of London, which is where the merchants lived and did business.

[00:11:28] The monarch needed the merchants, because they brought wealth to the country, and the merchants needed the support of the monarch, because he or she was the Head of State.

[00:11:41] You can see an excellent example of this tension, or perhaps we should say mutually beneficial relationship, if you go to the Southwark Docks in London and visit the Golden Hind, the ship that Sir Francis Drake used to sail around the world in 1577.

[00:12:01] Sir Francis Drake was sponsored by Queen Elizabeth I to go on this mission, with the understanding that she would benefit from it if he were successful. 

[00:12:13] When Drake returned three years later with a ship full of gold and riches, he donated half of it to his queen, which was thought to be enough money to pay off the national debt at the time.

[00:12:29] Indeed, this tension is something that you can still see today in London. 

[00:12:35] The city may have swelled, it may have grown so big that Westminster and The City are both part of London, but there is a real tension between the businesspeople who believe they run the city, to the east, and the politicians who control the laws, to the west. 

[00:12:55] They both need each other, and it is a constant game of cat and mouse to try to get one up on each other.

[00:13:04] Now, while London has enjoyed a relatively peaceful history when one compares it to cities such as Paris or Moscow, it has certainly experienced some difficult times.

[00:13:18] When the first Black Death, the first plague, arrived in 1348, it wiped out, it killed half the population. Different varieties of the plague returned 40 times over the next 300 years, and London’s status as a maritime trade centre meant that all sorts of diseases made their way to the city.

[00:13:43] If you have listened to episode 115 you will know all about The Great Fire of London, which burned down substantial parts of the city in 1666. London was rebuilt from the ground up shortly afterwards, large parts of which were designed by one individual, an architect named Christopher Wren.

[00:14:06] He designed the St Paul’s Cathedral that you see today, as well as countless other churches and buildings all over the city. 

[00:14:15] Indeed, above where he is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral the memorial reads “'Reader, if you seek his memorial - look around you.” 

[00:14:25] Essentially, the entire city is his memorial, so just look around the city and you will see his work, his legacy.

[00:14:34] Now, let’s just pause for a moment and take stock of what is happening in various parts of London after the Great Fire of London, in the latter half of the 17th century.

[00:14:48] The population of the city is around half a million people. 

[00:14:52] It has started to spill over westwards, out of the original Roman city. 

[00:14:58] Further west, in modern day Soho and the West End, wealthy families had been building grand houses. These areas were chosen because they were far away from the city, with its polluting industry and nasty smells.

[00:15:16] There were great parks, such as Hyde Park, which King Henry VIII had taken from the Catholic Church and turned into his private hunting park.

[00:15:28] South of these parks was Westminster, the political centre, which contained the Palace of Whitehall, the large palace where the monarch would live.

[00:15:38] To the east of the city of London was the docklands, the area where boats would be loaded and unloaded. The banks of the river Thames would be covered by warehouses, and boats would be dragged up out of the river to be unloaded, connecting London with, well, anywhere that was reachable by sea.

[00:16:02] And the city of London, the core of the growing metropolis, was the centre for trade, business, and life. 

[00:16:13] As the global trade network continued to grow, and organisations such as the British East India Company brought back great wealth to the country from all corners of the world, this translated into great wealth and prosperity for the city, and for a minority of its residents.

[00:16:34] Merchants grew fabulously rich, but life for the average Londoner was still pretty grim.

[00:16:43] With the arrival of The Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, the construction of factories in the city and the subsequent influx of people to the city, it got even more so, even more grim.

[00:16:57] The population swelled to 2.4 million by 1850, and living conditions were terrible for the majority of the urban population.

[00:17:09] The plight of the urban poor at this time, in Victorian London, was chronicled by journalists such as a man named Charles Mayhew, who wrote an extensive research piece called “London Labour and the London Poor”, and really helped people in power understand quite the extent of the poverty that existed in London.

[00:17:32] The poor also became the subject of novels, most significantly by Charles Dickens.

[00:17:39] Most of his books are set in London, and deal with the squalor and terrible conditions that most people lived in.

[00:17:49] Oliver Twist, for example, deals with the life of a gang of pickpockets, villains and prostitutes, and has the horrible smell and darkness of London as its backdrop.

[00:18:03] Fifty years after the publication of Oliver Twist, when conditions hadn’t really improved at all for the average Londoner, the serial killer Jack The Ripper claimed his first victim, and terrorised the city in the late summer of 1888. 

[00:18:20] For more on that, by the way, you can listen to episode number 30.

[00:18:25] At the turn of the 20th century the population of London had reached 6.5 million, and it was to peak at 8.6 million in 1939.

[00:18:37] By this time it had started to spread its tentacles north, west, south and slightly to the east.

[00:18:47] I say only “slightly” to the east because the original city of London is already to the east of what we consider London today. 

[00:18:57] This growth was enabled by the creation of the underground railway system, which Londoners call The Tube. It opened in 1863, connecting the train stations on the edge of the city to the centre.

[00:19:12] It is no exaggeration to say that the arrival of the tube transformed London. It meant that people could travel more quickly and more easily around the city, meaning it became less important to live close to the centre.

[00:19:31] The result of this was that London continued to grow outwards, and started to become the sprawling metropolis that it is today.

[00:19:40] The word for this sprawl is the suburbs, or even suburbia. What were previously villages outside London, such as places like Highgate or Wimbledon, were gobbled up, they were engulfed by the city.

[00:19:58] The creation of these suburbs, and the fact you could easily get there by public transport, allowed Londoners to escape the chaos, overcrowding and smells of city centre life, and live a semi-rural, or at least pretend rural life. Houses in the suburbs were advertised as having fresh air, gardens, and nature. 

[00:20:25] Instead of a single family living in one room, a house in the suburbs meant everyone could have their own room, a garden, and live an English countryside life all while being able to easily get to the city centre.

[00:20:40] As a consequence, the population swelled, and during the reign of Queen Victoria it had quadrupled in size, it had gone up four times. 

[00:20:52] London was not just the capital of England, not just the capital of the United Kingdom, but it was the capital of the British Empire, an empire that at its peak ruled over 450 million people all over the world.

[00:21:09] During the First and Second World Wars, like in most of Europe, the development of London ground to a halt

[00:21:17] The bombing of London during World War II, otherwise known as The Blitz, is well documented, but not many people are aware that the city was also bombed during The First World War.

[00:21:31] The Blitz caused the deaths of around 40,000 Londoners, and the destruction of 2 million homes, primarily in the poor East End of the city and around the docks.

[00:21:45] So, the period after The Second World War, the post-war years, were characterised by rebuilding, and even a resetting of London.

[00:21:56] The destruction of large parts of the city, although tragic, allowed for the reconstruction of buildings that were better suited for the future London. 

[00:22:09] Old single or two storey houses, especially in the East End, were pulled down to make way for larger tower blocks. 

[00:22:19] There were large numbers of immigrants coming from the disbanding British colonies, in particular from the West Indies. London became an ever more multicultural city, with more immigrants arriving from South Asia, countries such as Pakistan and India in particular, in the 1960s and 1970s. 

[00:22:41] Nowadays, the UK's immigrant population is concentrated in London. Around 35% of people living in the UK who were born abroad live in the capital city, while London contains only 13% of the UK’s population.

[00:22:59] Similarly, around 37% of people who live in London were born outside the UK, compared to 14% for the UK as a whole.

[00:23:10] Although London is now one of the most multicultural cities in the world, the transition from majority-white English city of the Victorian era to the global city of 2021 has not always been smooth.

[00:23:25] From the rise of the British fascists in the 1930s who were protesting against immigration and then numerous race riots triggered by police brutality in the 1980s, 1990s and even in the last decade, it has not always been an easy transition.

[00:23:47] Now, this brings us almost to the London of today, a truly global city, a hub of business, music, art, culture, finance, literature.

[00:23:59] If there is one word that we can certainly use about London, it is adaptable

[00:24:05] No matter what seems to happen to it, it bounces back, it seems to emerge stronger.

[00:24:12] From being burned to the ground by Queen Boudica to half its residents being killed by The Black Death, from suffering from tragic overpopulation and poverty in the Victorian era through to being almost razed to the ground by the Nazis, and then navigating the transition from port, trade city through to the global financial city it is today, London has certainly shown that it has the capacity to change.

[00:24:42] It is a city that has attracted people from all over the world. Mozart, Handel, Jimmy Hendrix, Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Engels, Garibaldi, Samuel Beckett, Marilyn Monroe, even Karl Marx haven’t been able to resist the pull of this amazing city.

[00:25:02] If you haven’t ever been to London, then I would certainly recommend a trip, especially as Brexit has meant the pound is a lot cheaper than it was, so you’ll find that London isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be.

[00:25:17] And if you do go, or even if you have been already and want to go back, then go and stand in the old city, where the Romans first built Londinium. It is now a bustling metropolis, full of men and women in suits and smart clothes rushing around carrying sandwiches and coffees, talking into their mobile phones. 

[00:25:40] But pause for a minute, close your eyes, and imagine the amazing journey that this city has gone on over the past 2,000 years. 

[00:25:51] One can only imagine what the next 2,000 years hold for Londinium, but if history is anything to go by, it is certainly ready for anything anyone can throw at it.

[00:26:05] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The History of London.

[00:26:10] We have done a really quick tour through the history, and skipped over a lot of juicy bits, but I hope this might have whetted your appetite to find out more. 

[00:26:21] From the impact that Henry VIII had on the city to Shakespeare to the Gin Craze, there is simply a huge amount to say about the history of London, and as a result we haven’t had time for everything. 

[00:26:35] One obvious omission, perhaps, one obvious thing that we have not covered, is the dialect that people speak in London, Cockney Rhyming Slang, but the good news is that there is an entire episode, episode 140, where you can learn all about that.

[00:26:53] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:26:57] If you have been to London, how much of this history did you know? 

[00:27:01] If you have been on a tour or have friends from London, what other interesting facts or stories do you know about London’s history? 

[00:27:10] Let's get this discussion started, the place you can go for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com.

[00:27:19] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:27:24] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to go on a whistle stop tour of the history of London.

[00:00:30] London is a city that I imagine you might have visited. Indeed, 30 million people visit London every single year, and are captured by the magic of the city.

[00:00:42] But in today’s episode we are going to go a little deeper than red buses, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square, and go on a journey through the history of London.

[00:00:55] We’ll go all the way back to the founding of London, we’ll explain how there really are two Londons, we’ll meet the Vikings, the plague, great fires, poverty, opportunity, wars, trains, Nazis, and more.

[00:01:12] I’m really excited to share this story with you, so let’s get started right away.

[00:01:19] The story of London starts, like many great stories do, with the Romans, who founded the city they called Londinium, after they invaded the British Isles in AD43.

[00:01:33] Historians are divided over whether there were any prehistoric settlements in the area beforehand, any Bronze age settlements, so we will conveniently skip over that part, and start with the arrival of the Romans.

[00:01:49] Let’s first remind ourselves of exactly where London is.

[00:01:54] Well, you probably know it’s in the south east of the British Isles, about 80km from the south coast of the country, and less than 50km from the east coast.

[00:02:07] Through the middle of modern London runs the Thames river, which runs from west to east, and becomes a large estuary shortly to the east of London. The Thames is a wide, tidal river, meaning it is easy to sail all the way up the river to where modern London is.

[00:02:30] You wouldn’t know it now, but thousands of years ago the site where modern London stands was a boggy meadow, it was the kind of wet ground you sometimes find near a large river.

[00:02:45] So, when the Romans arrived in Britain, they would have sailed up this large river and decided that this area had qualities that would make it a good place to live.

[00:02:57] They built their settlement on the northern bank of the river, on what is now called The City of London, the area that is now a hub for business and finance.

[00:03:10] Construction of Londinium is thought to have started shortly after AD43, and the Romans turned it into, essentially, another Roman town. It would have had a forum, even a gladiatorial amphitheatre, large houses with underfloor heating, and looked similar to many Roman settlements you would find in other parts of Europe.

[00:03:36] No doubt the underfloor heating came in more useful than it did in Sicily, for example, and perhaps it took the Romans a bit of getting used to the climate.

[00:03:48] Londinium prospered. It became a centre for trade, and soon the town, or perhaps we can even call it a city, had around 60,000 inhabitants. Much like it is today, it was a cosmopolitan city. People from all over the Roman empire lived there.

[00:04:09] Some people came to seek fame and fortune, to make money through trade.

[00:04:15] Others would have come there involuntarily; archaeologists have found the remains of slaves from all over the empire.

[00:04:24] The Romans even managed to build a bridge over the wide river Thames. It is even believed to have been able to open to allow large ships to pass through.

[00:04:37] The point is that London, or rather Londinium, was not some poor colonial outpost. It was a centre for trade, it was a desirable place to be, a place where you could make a name for yourself.

[00:04:52] Only around 10 years after Londinium was founded, though, everything had almost been stopped in its tracks. The city was burned to the ground by a native Celtic tribe led by a fierce warrior queen called Boudica. 

[00:05:10] Boudica’s father, a king of a local British tribe, had died, and the Romans had tried to take his land and property. He only had daughters, and Roman law didn’t allow a daughter to inherit anything.

[00:05:27] After Boudica protested, she was flogged, which means beaten with a stick or a whip, and her two daughters were raped.

[00:05:36] Understandably furious about this treatment, she raised an army and marched on Londinium, successfully defeating the Roman soldiers in her way and burning the city to the ground.

[00:05:49] The revolt was eventually put down, but it was a real blow for Roman rule in Britain, and reportedly Nero, who was the Roman emperor at the time, seriously considered withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain.

[00:06:06] He didn’t, and Londonium bounced back, becoming this important outpost of the Roman empire, and the capital of the Roman province of Brittanium.

[00:06:18] After the Romans left Britain, in the 4th century AD, Londinium fell into ruins

[00:06:25] It’s believed that Anglo Saxons started to settle nearby, just to the west of the city, around the 6th century AD, in an area now known as Aldwych, very close to modern day Covent Garden.

[00:06:41] On a linguistic note, the name Aldwych actually comes from the Anglo Saxon, “Ald”, meaning “old”, and “wych” meaning “village” or “farm”.

[00:06:53] The Anglo Saxon settlement was small and unimportant compared to Londinium, and is thought to have had only 7,000 people at its peak. And of course, there was no grand Roman empire, and very limited international trade opportunities compared to several hundred years before.

[00:07:15] In the 9th and 10th centuries the Vikings found that the wide river Thames provided easy access to Britain, and there were frequent raiding parties that made life pretty uncomfortable. 

[00:07:30] London was hard to defend, given that it was so easy to get there by boat, and there are stories of fierce battles between the Anglo Saxons and the Vikings, neither of whom were actually originally from Britain - in the Anglo Saxons case they had come to Britain in the 5th century AD, and the Vikings were of course from modern day Scandinavia.

[00:07:57] Now, moving on to our next serious immigrant to rule over the city, William the Conqueror.

[00:08:04] He arrived in Britain in 1066, and after proving victorious over the Anglo Saxon king, Harold, he proclaimed himself ruler and was crowned king on Christmas Day of 1066. 

[00:08:20] The location for his coronation was to be Westminster Abbey, the magnificent church that had been built by the Anglo-Saxon king, Edward The Confessor, six years beforehand.

[00:08:33] And indeed, ever since the coronation of William the Conqueror 955 years ago, every single English monarch has been crowned in exactly the same place.

[00:08:45] William the Conqueror, who is also known as William I, started construction on his own magnificent building, his own castle, on the original site of Londinium, around 5km to the east of Westminster, along the river.

[00:09:02] His construction is what we now know as The Tower of London.

[00:09:08] You have probably seen pictures of it, and perhaps you have even been there. It is a magnificent fortress, built out of stone. Against the backdrop of modern day skyscrapers, it might not look so large and mighty, but to the local population who would only have been used to one or two storey buildings, it must have looked very imposing, which was the idea of course.

[00:09:38] William made London his capital. 

[00:09:40] The Anglo-Saxon kings had used Winchester, a city to the south west of London, but William had decided that the capital of the country he was to rule should be here, on the Thames river, on the site the Romans had chosen.

[00:09:57] Moving into the Middle Ages, London continued to grow and prosper. A bridge was built between the north of the river, where the settlement was, and the south an area now known as Southwark.

[00:10:12] Its name was London Bridge, and interestingly enough it was the only bridge across the river Thames in London for 500 years - the next bridge wasn’t built until 1739.

[00:10:27] So, when one thinks about the geography of London at this time, and this is really the case until pretty much the 17th century, there was “London”, which was the city of London, and was where there’s the modern day “City”, the financial hub.

[00:10:46] Then there was Westminster, where the abbey was, and where the government business was conducted. And south of the river there really wasn’t very much at all, certainly not compared to today. 

[00:11:00] The south was hard to get to, because the city only contained one bridge, and all of the action happened in a comparatively small area, the city of London, which was not much larger than a square kilometre.

[00:11:16] There was often great tension between Westminster, the seat of the king or queen, and the city of London, which is where the merchants lived and did business.

[00:11:28] The monarch needed the merchants, because they brought wealth to the country, and the merchants needed the support of the monarch, because he or she was the Head of State.

[00:11:41] You can see an excellent example of this tension, or perhaps we should say mutually beneficial relationship, if you go to the Southwark Docks in London and visit the Golden Hind, the ship that Sir Francis Drake used to sail around the world in 1577.

[00:12:01] Sir Francis Drake was sponsored by Queen Elizabeth I to go on this mission, with the understanding that she would benefit from it if he were successful. 

[00:12:13] When Drake returned three years later with a ship full of gold and riches, he donated half of it to his queen, which was thought to be enough money to pay off the national debt at the time.

[00:12:29] Indeed, this tension is something that you can still see today in London. 

[00:12:35] The city may have swelled, it may have grown so big that Westminster and The City are both part of London, but there is a real tension between the businesspeople who believe they run the city, to the east, and the politicians who control the laws, to the west. 

[00:12:55] They both need each other, and it is a constant game of cat and mouse to try to get one up on each other.

[00:13:04] Now, while London has enjoyed a relatively peaceful history when one compares it to cities such as Paris or Moscow, it has certainly experienced some difficult times.

[00:13:18] When the first Black Death, the first plague, arrived in 1348, it wiped out, it killed half the population. Different varieties of the plague returned 40 times over the next 300 years, and London’s status as a maritime trade centre meant that all sorts of diseases made their way to the city.

[00:13:43] If you have listened to episode 115 you will know all about The Great Fire of London, which burned down substantial parts of the city in 1666. London was rebuilt from the ground up shortly afterwards, large parts of which were designed by one individual, an architect named Christopher Wren.

[00:14:06] He designed the St Paul’s Cathedral that you see today, as well as countless other churches and buildings all over the city. 

[00:14:15] Indeed, above where he is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral the memorial reads “'Reader, if you seek his memorial - look around you.” 

[00:14:25] Essentially, the entire city is his memorial, so just look around the city and you will see his work, his legacy.

[00:14:34] Now, let’s just pause for a moment and take stock of what is happening in various parts of London after the Great Fire of London, in the latter half of the 17th century.

[00:14:48] The population of the city is around half a million people. 

[00:14:52] It has started to spill over westwards, out of the original Roman city. 

[00:14:58] Further west, in modern day Soho and the West End, wealthy families had been building grand houses. These areas were chosen because they were far away from the city, with its polluting industry and nasty smells.

[00:15:16] There were great parks, such as Hyde Park, which King Henry VIII had taken from the Catholic Church and turned into his private hunting park.

[00:15:28] South of these parks was Westminster, the political centre, which contained the Palace of Whitehall, the large palace where the monarch would live.

[00:15:38] To the east of the city of London was the docklands, the area where boats would be loaded and unloaded. The banks of the river Thames would be covered by warehouses, and boats would be dragged up out of the river to be unloaded, connecting London with, well, anywhere that was reachable by sea.

[00:16:02] And the city of London, the core of the growing metropolis, was the centre for trade, business, and life. 

[00:16:13] As the global trade network continued to grow, and organisations such as the British East India Company brought back great wealth to the country from all corners of the world, this translated into great wealth and prosperity for the city, and for a minority of its residents.

[00:16:34] Merchants grew fabulously rich, but life for the average Londoner was still pretty grim.

[00:16:43] With the arrival of The Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, the construction of factories in the city and the subsequent influx of people to the city, it got even more so, even more grim.

[00:16:57] The population swelled to 2.4 million by 1850, and living conditions were terrible for the majority of the urban population.

[00:17:09] The plight of the urban poor at this time, in Victorian London, was chronicled by journalists such as a man named Charles Mayhew, who wrote an extensive research piece called “London Labour and the London Poor”, and really helped people in power understand quite the extent of the poverty that existed in London.

[00:17:32] The poor also became the subject of novels, most significantly by Charles Dickens.

[00:17:39] Most of his books are set in London, and deal with the squalor and terrible conditions that most people lived in.

[00:17:49] Oliver Twist, for example, deals with the life of a gang of pickpockets, villains and prostitutes, and has the horrible smell and darkness of London as its backdrop.

[00:18:03] Fifty years after the publication of Oliver Twist, when conditions hadn’t really improved at all for the average Londoner, the serial killer Jack The Ripper claimed his first victim, and terrorised the city in the late summer of 1888. 

[00:18:20] For more on that, by the way, you can listen to episode number 30.

[00:18:25] At the turn of the 20th century the population of London had reached 6.5 million, and it was to peak at 8.6 million in 1939.

[00:18:37] By this time it had started to spread its tentacles north, west, south and slightly to the east.

[00:18:47] I say only “slightly” to the east because the original city of London is already to the east of what we consider London today. 

[00:18:57] This growth was enabled by the creation of the underground railway system, which Londoners call The Tube. It opened in 1863, connecting the train stations on the edge of the city to the centre.

[00:19:12] It is no exaggeration to say that the arrival of the tube transformed London. It meant that people could travel more quickly and more easily around the city, meaning it became less important to live close to the centre.

[00:19:31] The result of this was that London continued to grow outwards, and started to become the sprawling metropolis that it is today.

[00:19:40] The word for this sprawl is the suburbs, or even suburbia. What were previously villages outside London, such as places like Highgate or Wimbledon, were gobbled up, they were engulfed by the city.

[00:19:58] The creation of these suburbs, and the fact you could easily get there by public transport, allowed Londoners to escape the chaos, overcrowding and smells of city centre life, and live a semi-rural, or at least pretend rural life. Houses in the suburbs were advertised as having fresh air, gardens, and nature. 

[00:20:25] Instead of a single family living in one room, a house in the suburbs meant everyone could have their own room, a garden, and live an English countryside life all while being able to easily get to the city centre.

[00:20:40] As a consequence, the population swelled, and during the reign of Queen Victoria it had quadrupled in size, it had gone up four times. 

[00:20:52] London was not just the capital of England, not just the capital of the United Kingdom, but it was the capital of the British Empire, an empire that at its peak ruled over 450 million people all over the world.

[00:21:09] During the First and Second World Wars, like in most of Europe, the development of London ground to a halt

[00:21:17] The bombing of London during World War II, otherwise known as The Blitz, is well documented, but not many people are aware that the city was also bombed during The First World War.

[00:21:31] The Blitz caused the deaths of around 40,000 Londoners, and the destruction of 2 million homes, primarily in the poor East End of the city and around the docks.

[00:21:45] So, the period after The Second World War, the post-war years, were characterised by rebuilding, and even a resetting of London.

[00:21:56] The destruction of large parts of the city, although tragic, allowed for the reconstruction of buildings that were better suited for the future London. 

[00:22:09] Old single or two storey houses, especially in the East End, were pulled down to make way for larger tower blocks. 

[00:22:19] There were large numbers of immigrants coming from the disbanding British colonies, in particular from the West Indies. London became an ever more multicultural city, with more immigrants arriving from South Asia, countries such as Pakistan and India in particular, in the 1960s and 1970s. 

[00:22:41] Nowadays, the UK's immigrant population is concentrated in London. Around 35% of people living in the UK who were born abroad live in the capital city, while London contains only 13% of the UK’s population.

[00:22:59] Similarly, around 37% of people who live in London were born outside the UK, compared to 14% for the UK as a whole.

[00:23:10] Although London is now one of the most multicultural cities in the world, the transition from majority-white English city of the Victorian era to the global city of 2021 has not always been smooth.

[00:23:25] From the rise of the British fascists in the 1930s who were protesting against immigration and then numerous race riots triggered by police brutality in the 1980s, 1990s and even in the last decade, it has not always been an easy transition.

[00:23:47] Now, this brings us almost to the London of today, a truly global city, a hub of business, music, art, culture, finance, literature.

[00:23:59] If there is one word that we can certainly use about London, it is adaptable

[00:24:05] No matter what seems to happen to it, it bounces back, it seems to emerge stronger.

[00:24:12] From being burned to the ground by Queen Boudica to half its residents being killed by The Black Death, from suffering from tragic overpopulation and poverty in the Victorian era through to being almost razed to the ground by the Nazis, and then navigating the transition from port, trade city through to the global financial city it is today, London has certainly shown that it has the capacity to change.

[00:24:42] It is a city that has attracted people from all over the world. Mozart, Handel, Jimmy Hendrix, Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Engels, Garibaldi, Samuel Beckett, Marilyn Monroe, even Karl Marx haven’t been able to resist the pull of this amazing city.

[00:25:02] If you haven’t ever been to London, then I would certainly recommend a trip, especially as Brexit has meant the pound is a lot cheaper than it was, so you’ll find that London isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be.

[00:25:17] And if you do go, or even if you have been already and want to go back, then go and stand in the old city, where the Romans first built Londinium. It is now a bustling metropolis, full of men and women in suits and smart clothes rushing around carrying sandwiches and coffees, talking into their mobile phones. 

[00:25:40] But pause for a minute, close your eyes, and imagine the amazing journey that this city has gone on over the past 2,000 years. 

[00:25:51] One can only imagine what the next 2,000 years hold for Londinium, but if history is anything to go by, it is certainly ready for anything anyone can throw at it.

[00:26:05] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The History of London.

[00:26:10] We have done a really quick tour through the history, and skipped over a lot of juicy bits, but I hope this might have whetted your appetite to find out more. 

[00:26:21] From the impact that Henry VIII had on the city to Shakespeare to the Gin Craze, there is simply a huge amount to say about the history of London, and as a result we haven’t had time for everything. 

[00:26:35] One obvious omission, perhaps, one obvious thing that we have not covered, is the dialect that people speak in London, Cockney Rhyming Slang, but the good news is that there is an entire episode, episode 140, where you can learn all about that.

[00:26:53] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:26:57] If you have been to London, how much of this history did you know? 

[00:27:01] If you have been on a tour or have friends from London, what other interesting facts or stories do you know about London’s history? 

[00:27:10] Let's get this discussion started, the place you can go for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com.

[00:27:19] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:27:24] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to go on a whistle stop tour of the history of London.

[00:00:30] London is a city that I imagine you might have visited. Indeed, 30 million people visit London every single year, and are captured by the magic of the city.

[00:00:42] But in today’s episode we are going to go a little deeper than red buses, Big Ben and Trafalgar Square, and go on a journey through the history of London.

[00:00:55] We’ll go all the way back to the founding of London, we’ll explain how there really are two Londons, we’ll meet the Vikings, the plague, great fires, poverty, opportunity, wars, trains, Nazis, and more.

[00:01:12] I’m really excited to share this story with you, so let’s get started right away.

[00:01:19] The story of London starts, like many great stories do, with the Romans, who founded the city they called Londinium, after they invaded the British Isles in AD43.

[00:01:33] Historians are divided over whether there were any prehistoric settlements in the area beforehand, any Bronze age settlements, so we will conveniently skip over that part, and start with the arrival of the Romans.

[00:01:49] Let’s first remind ourselves of exactly where London is.

[00:01:54] Well, you probably know it’s in the south east of the British Isles, about 80km from the south coast of the country, and less than 50km from the east coast.

[00:02:07] Through the middle of modern London runs the Thames river, which runs from west to east, and becomes a large estuary shortly to the east of London. The Thames is a wide, tidal river, meaning it is easy to sail all the way up the river to where modern London is.

[00:02:30] You wouldn’t know it now, but thousands of years ago the site where modern London stands was a boggy meadow, it was the kind of wet ground you sometimes find near a large river.

[00:02:45] So, when the Romans arrived in Britain, they would have sailed up this large river and decided that this area had qualities that would make it a good place to live.

[00:02:57] They built their settlement on the northern bank of the river, on what is now called The City of London, the area that is now a hub for business and finance.

[00:03:10] Construction of Londinium is thought to have started shortly after AD43, and the Romans turned it into, essentially, another Roman town. It would have had a forum, even a gladiatorial amphitheatre, large houses with underfloor heating, and looked similar to many Roman settlements you would find in other parts of Europe.

[00:03:36] No doubt the underfloor heating came in more useful than it did in Sicily, for example, and perhaps it took the Romans a bit of getting used to the climate.

[00:03:48] Londinium prospered. It became a centre for trade, and soon the town, or perhaps we can even call it a city, had around 60,000 inhabitants. Much like it is today, it was a cosmopolitan city. People from all over the Roman empire lived there.

[00:04:09] Some people came to seek fame and fortune, to make money through trade.

[00:04:15] Others would have come there involuntarily; archaeologists have found the remains of slaves from all over the empire.

[00:04:24] The Romans even managed to build a bridge over the wide river Thames. It is even believed to have been able to open to allow large ships to pass through.

[00:04:37] The point is that London, or rather Londinium, was not some poor colonial outpost. It was a centre for trade, it was a desirable place to be, a place where you could make a name for yourself.

[00:04:52] Only around 10 years after Londinium was founded, though, everything had almost been stopped in its tracks. The city was burned to the ground by a native Celtic tribe led by a fierce warrior queen called Boudica. 

[00:05:10] Boudica’s father, a king of a local British tribe, had died, and the Romans had tried to take his land and property. He only had daughters, and Roman law didn’t allow a daughter to inherit anything.

[00:05:27] After Boudica protested, she was flogged, which means beaten with a stick or a whip, and her two daughters were raped.

[00:05:36] Understandably furious about this treatment, she raised an army and marched on Londinium, successfully defeating the Roman soldiers in her way and burning the city to the ground.

[00:05:49] The revolt was eventually put down, but it was a real blow for Roman rule in Britain, and reportedly Nero, who was the Roman emperor at the time, seriously considered withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain.

[00:06:06] He didn’t, and Londonium bounced back, becoming this important outpost of the Roman empire, and the capital of the Roman province of Brittanium.

[00:06:18] After the Romans left Britain, in the 4th century AD, Londinium fell into ruins

[00:06:25] It’s believed that Anglo Saxons started to settle nearby, just to the west of the city, around the 6th century AD, in an area now known as Aldwych, very close to modern day Covent Garden.

[00:06:41] On a linguistic note, the name Aldwych actually comes from the Anglo Saxon, “Ald”, meaning “old”, and “wych” meaning “village” or “farm”.

[00:06:53] The Anglo Saxon settlement was small and unimportant compared to Londinium, and is thought to have had only 7,000 people at its peak. And of course, there was no grand Roman empire, and very limited international trade opportunities compared to several hundred years before.

[00:07:15] In the 9th and 10th centuries the Vikings found that the wide river Thames provided easy access to Britain, and there were frequent raiding parties that made life pretty uncomfortable. 

[00:07:30] London was hard to defend, given that it was so easy to get there by boat, and there are stories of fierce battles between the Anglo Saxons and the Vikings, neither of whom were actually originally from Britain - in the Anglo Saxons case they had come to Britain in the 5th century AD, and the Vikings were of course from modern day Scandinavia.

[00:07:57] Now, moving on to our next serious immigrant to rule over the city, William the Conqueror.

[00:08:04] He arrived in Britain in 1066, and after proving victorious over the Anglo Saxon king, Harold, he proclaimed himself ruler and was crowned king on Christmas Day of 1066. 

[00:08:20] The location for his coronation was to be Westminster Abbey, the magnificent church that had been built by the Anglo-Saxon king, Edward The Confessor, six years beforehand.

[00:08:33] And indeed, ever since the coronation of William the Conqueror 955 years ago, every single English monarch has been crowned in exactly the same place.

[00:08:45] William the Conqueror, who is also known as William I, started construction on his own magnificent building, his own castle, on the original site of Londinium, around 5km to the east of Westminster, along the river.

[00:09:02] His construction is what we now know as The Tower of London.

[00:09:08] You have probably seen pictures of it, and perhaps you have even been there. It is a magnificent fortress, built out of stone. Against the backdrop of modern day skyscrapers, it might not look so large and mighty, but to the local population who would only have been used to one or two storey buildings, it must have looked very imposing, which was the idea of course.

[00:09:38] William made London his capital. 

[00:09:40] The Anglo-Saxon kings had used Winchester, a city to the south west of London, but William had decided that the capital of the country he was to rule should be here, on the Thames river, on the site the Romans had chosen.

[00:09:57] Moving into the Middle Ages, London continued to grow and prosper. A bridge was built between the north of the river, where the settlement was, and the south an area now known as Southwark.

[00:10:12] Its name was London Bridge, and interestingly enough it was the only bridge across the river Thames in London for 500 years - the next bridge wasn’t built until 1739.

[00:10:27] So, when one thinks about the geography of London at this time, and this is really the case until pretty much the 17th century, there was “London”, which was the city of London, and was where there’s the modern day “City”, the financial hub.

[00:10:46] Then there was Westminster, where the abbey was, and where the government business was conducted. And south of the river there really wasn’t very much at all, certainly not compared to today. 

[00:11:00] The south was hard to get to, because the city only contained one bridge, and all of the action happened in a comparatively small area, the city of London, which was not much larger than a square kilometre.

[00:11:16] There was often great tension between Westminster, the seat of the king or queen, and the city of London, which is where the merchants lived and did business.

[00:11:28] The monarch needed the merchants, because they brought wealth to the country, and the merchants needed the support of the monarch, because he or she was the Head of State.

[00:11:41] You can see an excellent example of this tension, or perhaps we should say mutually beneficial relationship, if you go to the Southwark Docks in London and visit the Golden Hind, the ship that Sir Francis Drake used to sail around the world in 1577.

[00:12:01] Sir Francis Drake was sponsored by Queen Elizabeth I to go on this mission, with the understanding that she would benefit from it if he were successful. 

[00:12:13] When Drake returned three years later with a ship full of gold and riches, he donated half of it to his queen, which was thought to be enough money to pay off the national debt at the time.

[00:12:29] Indeed, this tension is something that you can still see today in London. 

[00:12:35] The city may have swelled, it may have grown so big that Westminster and The City are both part of London, but there is a real tension between the businesspeople who believe they run the city, to the east, and the politicians who control the laws, to the west. 

[00:12:55] They both need each other, and it is a constant game of cat and mouse to try to get one up on each other.

[00:13:04] Now, while London has enjoyed a relatively peaceful history when one compares it to cities such as Paris or Moscow, it has certainly experienced some difficult times.

[00:13:18] When the first Black Death, the first plague, arrived in 1348, it wiped out, it killed half the population. Different varieties of the plague returned 40 times over the next 300 years, and London’s status as a maritime trade centre meant that all sorts of diseases made their way to the city.

[00:13:43] If you have listened to episode 115 you will know all about The Great Fire of London, which burned down substantial parts of the city in 1666. London was rebuilt from the ground up shortly afterwards, large parts of which were designed by one individual, an architect named Christopher Wren.

[00:14:06] He designed the St Paul’s Cathedral that you see today, as well as countless other churches and buildings all over the city. 

[00:14:15] Indeed, above where he is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral the memorial reads “'Reader, if you seek his memorial - look around you.” 

[00:14:25] Essentially, the entire city is his memorial, so just look around the city and you will see his work, his legacy.

[00:14:34] Now, let’s just pause for a moment and take stock of what is happening in various parts of London after the Great Fire of London, in the latter half of the 17th century.

[00:14:48] The population of the city is around half a million people. 

[00:14:52] It has started to spill over westwards, out of the original Roman city. 

[00:14:58] Further west, in modern day Soho and the West End, wealthy families had been building grand houses. These areas were chosen because they were far away from the city, with its polluting industry and nasty smells.

[00:15:16] There were great parks, such as Hyde Park, which King Henry VIII had taken from the Catholic Church and turned into his private hunting park.

[00:15:28] South of these parks was Westminster, the political centre, which contained the Palace of Whitehall, the large palace where the monarch would live.

[00:15:38] To the east of the city of London was the docklands, the area where boats would be loaded and unloaded. The banks of the river Thames would be covered by warehouses, and boats would be dragged up out of the river to be unloaded, connecting London with, well, anywhere that was reachable by sea.

[00:16:02] And the city of London, the core of the growing metropolis, was the centre for trade, business, and life. 

[00:16:13] As the global trade network continued to grow, and organisations such as the British East India Company brought back great wealth to the country from all corners of the world, this translated into great wealth and prosperity for the city, and for a minority of its residents.

[00:16:34] Merchants grew fabulously rich, but life for the average Londoner was still pretty grim.

[00:16:43] With the arrival of The Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, the construction of factories in the city and the subsequent influx of people to the city, it got even more so, even more grim.

[00:16:57] The population swelled to 2.4 million by 1850, and living conditions were terrible for the majority of the urban population.

[00:17:09] The plight of the urban poor at this time, in Victorian London, was chronicled by journalists such as a man named Charles Mayhew, who wrote an extensive research piece called “London Labour and the London Poor”, and really helped people in power understand quite the extent of the poverty that existed in London.

[00:17:32] The poor also became the subject of novels, most significantly by Charles Dickens.

[00:17:39] Most of his books are set in London, and deal with the squalor and terrible conditions that most people lived in.

[00:17:49] Oliver Twist, for example, deals with the life of a gang of pickpockets, villains and prostitutes, and has the horrible smell and darkness of London as its backdrop.

[00:18:03] Fifty years after the publication of Oliver Twist, when conditions hadn’t really improved at all for the average Londoner, the serial killer Jack The Ripper claimed his first victim, and terrorised the city in the late summer of 1888. 

[00:18:20] For more on that, by the way, you can listen to episode number 30.

[00:18:25] At the turn of the 20th century the population of London had reached 6.5 million, and it was to peak at 8.6 million in 1939.

[00:18:37] By this time it had started to spread its tentacles north, west, south and slightly to the east.

[00:18:47] I say only “slightly” to the east because the original city of London is already to the east of what we consider London today. 

[00:18:57] This growth was enabled by the creation of the underground railway system, which Londoners call The Tube. It opened in 1863, connecting the train stations on the edge of the city to the centre.

[00:19:12] It is no exaggeration to say that the arrival of the tube transformed London. It meant that people could travel more quickly and more easily around the city, meaning it became less important to live close to the centre.

[00:19:31] The result of this was that London continued to grow outwards, and started to become the sprawling metropolis that it is today.

[00:19:40] The word for this sprawl is the suburbs, or even suburbia. What were previously villages outside London, such as places like Highgate or Wimbledon, were gobbled up, they were engulfed by the city.

[00:19:58] The creation of these suburbs, and the fact you could easily get there by public transport, allowed Londoners to escape the chaos, overcrowding and smells of city centre life, and live a semi-rural, or at least pretend rural life. Houses in the suburbs were advertised as having fresh air, gardens, and nature. 

[00:20:25] Instead of a single family living in one room, a house in the suburbs meant everyone could have their own room, a garden, and live an English countryside life all while being able to easily get to the city centre.

[00:20:40] As a consequence, the population swelled, and during the reign of Queen Victoria it had quadrupled in size, it had gone up four times. 

[00:20:52] London was not just the capital of England, not just the capital of the United Kingdom, but it was the capital of the British Empire, an empire that at its peak ruled over 450 million people all over the world.

[00:21:09] During the First and Second World Wars, like in most of Europe, the development of London ground to a halt

[00:21:17] The bombing of London during World War II, otherwise known as The Blitz, is well documented, but not many people are aware that the city was also bombed during The First World War.

[00:21:31] The Blitz caused the deaths of around 40,000 Londoners, and the destruction of 2 million homes, primarily in the poor East End of the city and around the docks.

[00:21:45] So, the period after The Second World War, the post-war years, were characterised by rebuilding, and even a resetting of London.

[00:21:56] The destruction of large parts of the city, although tragic, allowed for the reconstruction of buildings that were better suited for the future London. 

[00:22:09] Old single or two storey houses, especially in the East End, were pulled down to make way for larger tower blocks. 

[00:22:19] There were large numbers of immigrants coming from the disbanding British colonies, in particular from the West Indies. London became an ever more multicultural city, with more immigrants arriving from South Asia, countries such as Pakistan and India in particular, in the 1960s and 1970s. 

[00:22:41] Nowadays, the UK's immigrant population is concentrated in London. Around 35% of people living in the UK who were born abroad live in the capital city, while London contains only 13% of the UK’s population.

[00:22:59] Similarly, around 37% of people who live in London were born outside the UK, compared to 14% for the UK as a whole.

[00:23:10] Although London is now one of the most multicultural cities in the world, the transition from majority-white English city of the Victorian era to the global city of 2021 has not always been smooth.

[00:23:25] From the rise of the British fascists in the 1930s who were protesting against immigration and then numerous race riots triggered by police brutality in the 1980s, 1990s and even in the last decade, it has not always been an easy transition.

[00:23:47] Now, this brings us almost to the London of today, a truly global city, a hub of business, music, art, culture, finance, literature.

[00:23:59] If there is one word that we can certainly use about London, it is adaptable

[00:24:05] No matter what seems to happen to it, it bounces back, it seems to emerge stronger.

[00:24:12] From being burned to the ground by Queen Boudica to half its residents being killed by The Black Death, from suffering from tragic overpopulation and poverty in the Victorian era through to being almost razed to the ground by the Nazis, and then navigating the transition from port, trade city through to the global financial city it is today, London has certainly shown that it has the capacity to change.

[00:24:42] It is a city that has attracted people from all over the world. Mozart, Handel, Jimmy Hendrix, Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Engels, Garibaldi, Samuel Beckett, Marilyn Monroe, even Karl Marx haven’t been able to resist the pull of this amazing city.

[00:25:02] If you haven’t ever been to London, then I would certainly recommend a trip, especially as Brexit has meant the pound is a lot cheaper than it was, so you’ll find that London isn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be.

[00:25:17] And if you do go, or even if you have been already and want to go back, then go and stand in the old city, where the Romans first built Londinium. It is now a bustling metropolis, full of men and women in suits and smart clothes rushing around carrying sandwiches and coffees, talking into their mobile phones. 

[00:25:40] But pause for a minute, close your eyes, and imagine the amazing journey that this city has gone on over the past 2,000 years. 

[00:25:51] One can only imagine what the next 2,000 years hold for Londinium, but if history is anything to go by, it is certainly ready for anything anyone can throw at it.

[00:26:05] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The History of London.

[00:26:10] We have done a really quick tour through the history, and skipped over a lot of juicy bits, but I hope this might have whetted your appetite to find out more. 

[00:26:21] From the impact that Henry VIII had on the city to Shakespeare to the Gin Craze, there is simply a huge amount to say about the history of London, and as a result we haven’t had time for everything. 

[00:26:35] One obvious omission, perhaps, one obvious thing that we have not covered, is the dialect that people speak in London, Cockney Rhyming Slang, but the good news is that there is an entire episode, episode 140, where you can learn all about that.

[00:26:53] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:26:57] If you have been to London, how much of this history did you know? 

[00:27:01] If you have been on a tour or have friends from London, what other interesting facts or stories do you know about London’s history? 

[00:27:10] Let's get this discussion started, the place you can go for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com.

[00:27:19] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:27:24] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

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