London is the capital and largest city of England, and the United Kingdom, with a population of around 8.8 million, and the largest city in Western Europe by metropolitan area, with a population of 14.8 million. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a 50-mile (80 km) estuary down to the North Sea and has been a major settlement for nearly two millennia. The City of London, its ancient core and financial centre, was founded by the Romans as Londinium and retains its medieval boundaries. The City of Westminster, to the west of the City of London, has for centuries hosted the national government and parliament. Since the 19th century, the name "London" also refers to the metropolis around this core, historically split among the counties of Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, Kent, and Hertfordshire, which since 1965 has largely comprised Greater London, which is governed by 33 local authorities and the Greater London Au...Read more

London is the capital and largest city of England, and the United Kingdom, with a population of around 8.8 million, and the largest city in Western Europe by metropolitan area, with a population of 14.8 million. It stands on the River Thames in south-east England at the head of a 50-mile (80 km) estuary down to the North Sea and has been a major settlement for nearly two millennia. The City of London, its ancient core and financial centre, was founded by the Romans as Londinium and retains its medieval boundaries. The City of Westminster, to the west of the City of London, has for centuries hosted the national government and parliament. Since the 19th century, the name "London" also refers to the metropolis around this core, historically split among the counties of Middlesex, Essex, Surrey, Kent, and Hertfordshire, which since 1965 has largely comprised Greater London, which is governed by 33 local authorities and the Greater London Authority.

As one of the world's major global cities, London exerts a strong influence on world art, entertainment, fashion, commerce and finance, education, health care, media, science and technology, tourism, transport, and communications. Despite a post-Brexit exodus of stock listings from the London Stock Exchange, London is still one of Europe's most economically powerful cities, and it remains one of the major financial centres of the world. With Europe's largest concentration of higher education institutions, it is home to some of the highest-ranked academic institutions in the world—Imperial College London in natural and applied sciences, the London School of Economics in social sciences, and the comprehensive University College London. London is the most visited city in Europe and has the busiest city airport system in the world. The London Underground is the oldest rapid transit system in the world.

London's diverse cultures encompass over 300 languages. The 2023 population of Greater London of just under 10 million made it Europe's third-most populous city, accounting for 13.4% of the population of the United Kingdom and over 16% of the population of England. The Greater London Built-up Area is the fourth-most populous in Europe, with about 9.8 million inhabitants at the 2011 census. The London metropolitan area is the third-most populous in Europe, with about 14 million inhabitants in 2016, granting London the status of a megacity.

London has four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the combined Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church; and the historic settlement in Greenwich, where the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, defines the prime meridian (0° longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time. Other landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and Trafalgar Square. London has many museums, galleries, libraries, and cultural venues, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, British Library, and numerous West End theatres. Important sporting events held in London include the FA Cup Final, the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, and the London Marathon. In 2012, London became the first city to host three Summer Olympic Games.


In 1993, remains of a Bronze Age bridge were found on the south foreshore upstream from Vauxhall Bridge.[1] Two of the timbers were radiocarbon dated to 1750–1285 BC.[1] In 2010, foundations of a large timber structure, dated to 4800–4500 BC,[2] were found on the Thames's south foreshore downstream from Vauxhall Bridge.[3] Both structures are on the south bank of the Thames, where the now-underground River Effra flows into the Thames.[3]

Roman London  Reconstruction drawing of Londinium in 120 AD

Despite the evidence of scattered Brythonic settlements in the area, the first major settlement was founded by the Romans around 47 AD,[4] about four years after their invasion of 43 AD.[5] This only lasted until about 61 AD, when the Iceni tribe led by Queen Boudica stormed it and burnt it to the ground.[6]

The next planned incarnation of Londinium prospered, superseding Colchester as the principal city of the Roman province of Britannia in 100. At its height in the 2nd century, Roman London had a population of about 60,000.[7]

Anglo-Saxon and Viking-period London  The Lancastrian siege of London in 1471 is attacked by a Yorkist sally.

With the early 5th-century collapse of Roman rule, the walled city of Londinium was effectively abandoned, although Roman civilisation continued around St Martin-in-the-Fields until about 450.[8] From about 500, an Anglo-Saxon settlement known as Lundenwic developed slightly west of the old Roman city.[9] By about 680 the city had become a major port again, but there is little evidence of large-scale production. From the 820s repeated Viking assaults brought decline. Three are recorded; those in 851 and 886 succeeded, while the last, in 994, was rebuffed.[10]

The Vikings applied Danelaw over much of eastern and northern England, its boundary running roughly from London to Chester as an area of political and geographical control imposed by the Viking incursions formally agreed by the Danish warlord, Guthrum and the West Saxon king Alfred the Great in 886. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that Alfred "refounded" London in 886. Archaeological research shows this involved abandonment of Lundenwic and a revival of life and trade within the old Roman walls. London then grew slowly until a dramatic increase in about 950.[11]

By the 11th century, London was clearly the largest town in England. Westminster Abbey, rebuilt in Romanesque style by King Edward the Confessor, was one of the grandest churches in Europe. Winchester had been the capital of Anglo-Saxon England, but from this time London became the main forum for foreign traders and the base for defence in time of war. In the view of Frank Stenton: "It had the resources, and it was rapidly developing the dignity and the political self-consciousness appropriate to a national capital."[12]

Middle Ages  Westminster Abbey, as seen in this painting (by Canaletto, 1749), is a World Heritage Site and one of London's oldest and most important buildings.

After winning the Battle of Hastings, William, Duke of Normandy was crowned King of England in newly completed Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.[13] William built the Tower of London, the first of many such in England rebuilt in stone in the south-eastern corner of the city, to intimidate the inhabitants.[14] In 1097, William II began building Westminster Hall, close by the abbey of the same name. It became the basis of a new Palace of Westminster.[15]

In the 12th century, the institutions of central government, which had hitherto followed the royal English court around the country, grew in size and sophistication and became increasingly fixed, for most purposes at Westminster, although the royal treasury came to rest in the Tower. While the City of Westminster developed into a true governmental capital, its distinct neighbour, the City of London, remained England's largest city and principal commercial centre and flourished under its own unique administration, the Corporation of London. In 1100, its population was some 18,000; by 1300 it had grown to nearly 100,000.[16] With the Black Death in the mid-14th century, London lost nearly a third of its population.[17] London was the focus of the Peasants' Revolt in 1381.[18]

London was a centre of England's Jewish population before their expulsion by Edward I in 1290. Violence against Jews occurred in 1190, when it was rumoured that the new king had ordered their massacre after they had presented themselves at his coronation.[19] In 1264 during the Second Barons' War, Simon de Montfort's rebels killed 500 Jews while attempting to seize records of debts.[20]

Early modern  Map of London in 1593. There is only one bridge across the Thames, but parts of Southwark on the south bank of the river have been developed.

During the Tudor period, the Reformation produced a gradual shift to Protestantism. Much of London property passed from church to private ownership, which accelerated trade and business in the city.[21] In 1475, the Hanseatic League set up a main trading base (kontor) of England in London, called the Stalhof or Steelyard. It remained until 1853, when the Hanseatic cities of Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg sold the property to South Eastern Railway.[22] Woollen cloth was shipped undyed and undressed from 14th/15th century London to the nearby shores of the Low Countries.[23]

Yet English maritime enterprise hardly reached beyond the seas of north-west Europe. The commercial route to Italy and the Mediterranean was normally through Antwerp and over the Alps; any ships passing through the Strait of Gibraltar to or from England were likely to be Italian or Ragusan. The reopening of the Netherlands to English shipping in January 1565 spurred a burst of commercial activity.[24] The Royal Exchange was founded.[25] Mercantilism grew and monopoly traders such as the East India Company were founded as trade expanded to the New World. London became the main North Sea port, with migrants arriving from England and abroad. The population rose from about 50,000 in 1530 to about 225,000 in 1605.[21]

In the 16th century, William Shakespeare and his contemporaries lived in London during English Renaissance theatre. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was constructed in 1599 in Southwark. Stage performances came to a halt in London when Puritan authorities shut down the theatres in the 1640s and 1650s.[26] The ban on theatre was lifted during the Restoration in 1660, and London's oldest operating theatre, Drury Lane, opened in 1663 in what is now the West End theatre district.[27]

By the end of the Tudor period in 1603, London was still compact. There was an assassination attempt on James I in Westminster, in the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605.[28] In 1637, the government of Charles I attempted to reform administration in the London area. This called for the Corporation of the city to extend its jurisdiction and administration over expanding areas around the city. Fearing an attempt by the Crown to diminish the Liberties of London, coupled with a lack of interest in administering these additional areas or concern by city guilds of having to share power, caused the Corporation's "The Great Refusal", a decision which largely continues to account for the unique governmental status of the City.[29]

In the English Civil War, the majority of Londoners supported the Parliamentary cause. After an initial advance by the Royalists in 1642, culminating in the battles of Brentford and Turnham Green, London was surrounded by a defensive perimeter wall known as the Lines of Communication. The lines were built by up to 20,000 people, and were completed in under two months.[30] The fortifications failed their only test when the New Model Army entered London in 1647,[31] and they were levelled by Parliament the same year.[32]

 The Great Fire of London destroyed many parts of the city in 1666.

London was plagued by disease in the early 17th century,[33] culminating in the Great Plague of 1665–1666, which killed up to 100,000 people, or a fifth of the population.[33]

The Great Fire of London broke out in 1666 in Pudding Lane in the city and quickly swept through the wooden buildings.[34] Rebuilding took over ten years and was supervised by polymath Robert Hooke.[35] In 1708 Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, was completed. During the Georgian era, new districts such as Mayfair were formed in the west; new bridges over the Thames encouraged development in South London. In the east, the Port of London expanded downstream. London's development as an international financial centre matured for much of the 18th century.[36]

In 1762, George III acquired Buckingham House, which was enlarged over the next 75 years. During the 18th century, London was said to be dogged by crime,[37] and the Bow Street Runners were established in 1750 as a professional police force.[38] Epidemics during the 1720s and 30s saw most children born in the city die before reaching their fifth birthday.[39]

Coffee-houses became a popular place to debate ideas, as growing literacy and development of the printing press made news widely available, with Fleet Street becoming the centre of the British press. The invasion of Amsterdam by Napoleonic armies led many financiers to relocate to London and the first London international issue was arranged in 1817. Around the same time, the Royal Navy became the world's leading war fleet, acting as a major deterrent to potential economic adversaries. The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 was specifically aimed at weakening Dutch economic power. London then overtook Amsterdam as the leading international financial centre.[40]

Late modern and contemporary

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, an unprecedented growth in urbanisation took place, and the number of High Streets (the primary street for retail in Britain) rapidly grew.[41][42] London was the world's largest city from about 1831 to 1925, with a population density of 802 per acre (325 per hectare).[43] In addition to the growing number of stores selling goods, such as Harding, Howell & Co.—one of the first department stores—located on Pall Mall, the streets had scores of street sellers.[41] London's overcrowded conditions led to cholera epidemics, claiming 14,000 lives in 1848, and 6,000 in 1866.[44] Rising traffic congestion led to the creation of the world's first local urban rail network. The Metropolitan Board of Works oversaw infrastructure expansion in the capital and some surrounding counties; it was abolished in 1889 when the London County Council was created out of county areas surrounding the capital.[45]

From the early years of the 20th century onwards, teashops were found on High Streets across London and the rest of Britain, with Lyons, who opened the first of their chain of teashops in Piccadilly in 1894, leading the way.[46] The tearooms, such as the Criterion in Piccadilly, became a popular meeting place for women from the suffrage movement.[47] The city was the target of many attacks during the suffragette bombing and arson campaign, between 1912 and 1914, which saw historic landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral bombed.[48]

British volunteer recruits in London, August 1914, during World War I
A bombed-out London street during the Blitz, World War II

London was bombed by the Germans in the First World War, and during the Second World War, the Blitz and other bombings by the German Luftwaffe killed over 30,000 Londoners, destroying large tracts of housing and other buildings across the city.[49] The tomb of the Unknown Warrior, an unidentified member of the British armed forces killed during the First World War, was buried in Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1920.[50] The Cenotaph, located in Whitehall, was unveiled on the same day, and is the focal point for the National Service of Remembrance held annually on Remembrance Sunday, the closest Sunday to 11 November.[51]

The 1948 Summer Olympics were held at the original Wembley Stadium, while London was still recovering from the war.[52] From the 1940s, London became home to many immigrants, primarily from Commonwealth countries such as Jamaica, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan,[53] making London one of the most diverse cities in the world. In 1951, the Festival of Britain was held on the South Bank.[54] The Great Smog of 1952 led to the Clean Air Act 1956, which ended the "pea soup fogs" for which London had been notorious, and had earned it the nickname the "Big Smoke".[55]

Starting mainly in the mid-1960s, London became a centre for worldwide youth culture, exemplified by the Swinging London sub-culture associated with the King's Road, Chelsea and Carnaby Street.[56] The role of trendsetter revived in the punk era.[57] In 1965 London's political boundaries were expanded in response to the growth of the urban area and a new Greater London Council was created.[58] During The Troubles in Northern Ireland, London was hit from 1973 by bomb attacks by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.[59] These attacks lasted for two decades, starting with the Old Bailey bombing.[59] Racial inequality was highlighted by the 1981 Brixton riot.[60]

Greater London's population declined in the decades after the Second World War, from an estimated peak of 8.6 million in 1939 to around 6.8 million in the 1980s.[61] The principal ports for London moved downstream to Felixstowe and Tilbury, with the London Docklands area becoming a focus for regeneration, including the Canary Wharf development. This was born out of London's increasing role as an international financial centre in the 1980s.[62] Located about 2 miles (3.2 km) east of central London, the Thames Barrier was completed in the 1980s to protect London against tidal surges from the North Sea.[63]

The Greater London Council was abolished in 1986, leaving London with no central administration until 2000 and the creation of the Greater London Authority.[64] To mark the 21st century, the Millennium Dome, London Eye and Millennium Bridge were constructed.[65] On 6 July 2005 London was awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics, as the first city to stage the Olympic Games three times.[66] On 7 July 2005, three London Underground trains and a double-decker bus were bombed in a series of terrorist attacks.[59]

In 2008, Time named London alongside New York City and Hong Kong as Nylonkong, hailing them as the world's three most influential global cities.[67] In January 2015, Greater London's population was estimated to be 8.63 million, its highest since 1939.[68] During the Brexit referendum in 2016, the UK as a whole decided to leave the European Union, but most London constituencies voted for remaining.[69] However, Britain's exit from the EU in early 2020 only marginally weakened London's position as an international financial centre.[70]

On 6 May 2023, the coronation of Charles III and his wife, Camilla, as king and queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, took place at Westminster Abbey, London.[71]

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