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Short summary of the history of London (England)

London is the capital of both England and the United Kingdom and is currently the largest city in Britain, as well as the European continent. Since it was founded by the Romans with the name of Londinium Two millennia have passed and the history of London has undergone major changes gradually.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Roman era: I-V centuries

In the year 43 A.D. the Romans invaded what we know today as London this year. They then establish what is known as Britain (Britannia in Latin), which extends from the center to the south of the island of Great Britain.

  • 47-50 A.D.: The Romans built a strong wooden defense over the River Thames, near the current London Bridge.
  • 50 A.D.: official historical moment in which it was founded Londinium and the center of the city.
  • 61 A.D.: prosperity in the commerce sector was interrupted by Celtic invasions. The first invaders were the icenos, which ended Londinium.
Boudica statue on Westminster Bridge, London
  • 80-90 A.D.: the Romans rebuilt the city in Cornhill, the highest point north of the bridge.
  • 230-250 A.D.: Londinium already had more than 30,000 inhabitants who descended from different ethnic groups.
  • 312 A.D.: Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and, from that moment, this religion became the official cult of the empire.
  • 320-400 A.D.: the gradual decline of the Roman Empire in Great Britain takes place because of the invasions of the Picts, the Escotos and the Saxons (Celtic groups of Germanic origin).
  • 410 AD: the fall of the Roman Empire in Great Britain. Emperor Honorius denies his military help to the Romans and they leave Britain and Londinium.

Anglo-Saxon era: VI-X centuries

Many historians agree that, during the years 457-604 A.D., some Romans still lived in Londinium. In this period the new Lundenwic was established, a Saxon commercial settlement that was outside the city walls.

  • 600-620 A.D.: With the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, Lundenwic became a diocese and St Paul's Cathedral was built on Ludgate Hill.
  • 730-745 A.D.: the Anglo-Saxons used as currency the sceattas (small coins of 1.3 g of weight), considered the origin of the pound sterling.
Sceattas: origin of the pound sterling
  • A.D. 842-886: Danish Vikings assault Lundenwic and a conflict that lasted until 886 begins. The Saxon population, led by King Alfredo the Great of Wessex, manages to expel the Danes thereafter. Later, King Alfredo founded the Roman city again, this time under the name of Lundunburg or Lunduntown.
  • 1016: Danish Vikings continue to attack the Saxon people until the people had no choice but to accept the new king of Danish origin: the Canute King of England.
  • 1042: the death of The Cruel Hardecanuto and the throne returns to Saxon hands with King Edward the Confessor, founder of Westminster Abbey. This became the political, administrative and judicial seat of the city.

Norman and medieval times: 11th-15th centuries

In 1066 the Norman invasion took place, thus beginning what is known today as medieval times.

This date marked a before and after in the history of England, as it was when the country really became a unified nation-state.

The Battle of Hastings was then fought, in which the Duke of Normandy was crowned King of England and received the nickname of The Conqueror.

illustration of soldiers during the battle of Normandy
  • 1154: After the death of the last known Norman king, King Stephen, the throne passes to the hands of Henry II, of the House of Plantagenet.
  • 1189-1199: the reign of King Ricardo I, better known under the pseudonym, takes place Lion heart. He was the one who first recognized the city of London as an autonomous commune.
  • 1215: King Juan, successor of Ricardo I, gave authority to the most powerful barons in the country and, in this way, was forced to reduce taxes. The first mayor of London, Henry Fitz Aylwin, forced King John to put his seal on the Magna Carta, which meant a decrease in powers for the monarch.
  • 1300-1390: Fire becomes a constant threat both in houses and in the streets. Many diseases gradually spread due to the precarious living conditions and contaminated waters of the River Thames. In 1348 the first outbreaks of black plague took place, which took the lives of almost half of the population in less than two years. The economy was increasingly weak, which increased the malaise of the population.

In the fifteenth century, London gained wealth thanks to the houses of Lancaster and York, although the fight between the two culminated in the well-known War of the Two Roses.

The throne passed to King Edward V when he was only 12 years old, although he remained on the throne for only two months.

Subsequently, King Edward V was killed, thus giving way to the reign of Ricardo III. This one died in 1485 at the hands of Enrique Tudor in the battle of Bosworth.

King Richard III of England

Tudor and Elizabethan era: XVI-XVII centuries

After the assassination of King Richard III, the throne passed into the hands of the Tudor Dynasty, who remained there until 1603 (120 years). It is the best known English dynasty.

During the reign of the Tudors, London became one of the most important cities in Europe, thanks to the good progress of its trade and coinciding with the discovery of America.

Between 1491 and 1547 the reign of King Henry VIII of England and lord of Ireland took place. He is considered to have exercised the most absolute power in the entire history of England. During his reign, Whitehall Palace and St James’s Palace were built.

Whitehall Palace located in London

He also managed to take over the Hampton Court palace. He was proclaimed supreme head of the Church of England in order to divorce Catalina de Aragón and marry Ana Bolena. He seized the wealth of the Church, ordered the dissolution of the London monasteries and ended the Catholic culture in England.

This resulted in a great transformation of the city of London, from which emerged what we know today as Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Richmond Park. In 1547, Henry VIII died and the throne was inherited by his daughter Maria I Tudor, who restored Catholicism.

He reign of Isabel I It lasted 45 years (1558-1603) and is considered as the Golden age in English history, mainly due to the revival experienced by English literature. Some religious tolerance was also implanted.

In short, England became a maritime power after defeating the Spanish army in 1558. That same year is also marked by the creation of the first map of London. The city became the first market worldwide after the inauguration in 1570 of the Royal Exchange, that is, the stock market.

Elizabeth I of England

In these last years of the Elizabethan era, John Stow presented A Survey of London, the first text that dealt with the history of the city. Great English authors such as William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson or Christopher Marlowe, among others, experienced great success with theatrical performance of their plays in the theaters Rose and Globe.

Georgian era: 18th century

  • 1714: Queen Anne died without leaving descendants and, although she had several Catholic relatives who could have inherited the throne, the Settlement Act of 1701 prohibited a Roman-Catholic from ascending to the throne. Whereupon, Jorge de Hanover arrived from Germany and was crowned king of England.
  • 1714-1727: During the years that the reign of George I of England lasted, Robert Walpole, of the Whig party, became the British Prime Minister and lived at number 10 Downing Street, which became the official residence of almost all ministers since then.
  • 1750: The Roman wall surrounding the City was demolished and the Westminster Bridge was completed.
  • 1750-1780: During the Georgian era, London experienced a great cultural enrichment. Thus, Georg Friedich Handel, composer of the court, composed works such as The Messiah or Aquatic Music. In 1755 the first English-language monolingual dictionary was published, which was the work of Dr Johnson. The architecture also underwent a great development thanks to architects like John Soane or John Nash.
Architecture of the Georgian era in London

Victorian era: 19th-20th centuries

  • 1837: This year took place the rise to the throne of Queen Victoria, granddaughter of King George III (1760-1801), at 18 years old. Victoria's reign made London the decisive center of the British empire, which already covered a large part of the earth's surface and ruled over 500 million people. This year also saw the famous work of Charles Dickens Oliver Twist and other novels that focused on the issue of poverty and despair of the London working class, because about 80% of the English upper class controlled society and, the rest, that is, the working class did not enjoy No kind of social benefit.
Statue of Queen Victoria of England built in front of Buckingham Palace
  • 1859-1871: in 1863 the world's first underground train was inaugurated, which connected Paddington and Faddington Road. The result was so successful that it did not take long to open more lines. In 1859, Big Ben was built and, in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall.
  • 1850-1880: approximately during this period the Industrial Revolution took place in England, period also known as industrial era. In this way, it can be said that when Queen Victoria ascended the throne, the country's economy was based on the agricultural and rural sector, while after her death, the country was already greatly industrialized. The expansion of the rail network in England is an example of the great milestones that were achieved in this period of British history.
  • 1901: This year Victoria's reign culminated after her death. Queen Victoria has often been depicted with negative connotations; however, she was, in reality, a progressive and intelligent queen.

Contemporary era: XX-XXI centuries

Eduardo, son of Queen Victoria, was crowned as Edward VII of England in 1901, at 60 years of age. This year began what is known as belle époque London In

  • 1904: The first double-decker buses that are today the symbol of the British capital take place.
  • 1906-1909: continuing with the development of the belle époque, the first luxury hotels in the city were built (eg the Ritz in 1906). Also the department stores Selfridges They brought a touch of glamor to the city. In 1908 the first London Olympics were held, which took place at White City Stadium.
  • 1914-1918: in the year 1914 the First World War or Great War broke out. Nearly 700 Londoners died from the bombs the Germans were throwing against the city and another 2,000 people were seriously injured.
  • 1918-1936: these years, known as interwar period, they saw how English society experienced great cultural development. The population increased, so that in 1921 it already reached almost 8 million inhabitants. The same cannot be said for the economy, which suffered a major crisis. However, and despite all the economic hardships, the intellectual part of society was booming thanks to well-known personalities such as Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster or the economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1922 the first radio broadcast of the BBC took place and 14 years later the first television program of the British channel par excellence was broadcast.
BBC Headquarters in London, England
  • 1939-1945: during this period the Second World War took place, resulting in the end of the war the almost total disappearance of the City and the East End neighborhood, as well as the loss of almost 30,000 lives. Today you can appreciate this devastation by walking through East London and the City and seeing the new buildings that have been built there.
  • 1953: This year, the throne passed into the hands of the current queen, that is, Queen Elizabeth II. At this time, the country had already experienced some economic improvement and in 1960 London was considered a good place to live.
  • 1960-1970: the 60s experienced the well-known movement hippy and saw how the social norms established so far took a great turn with the introduction of the contraceptive pill or the legalization of gay marriage, among others. In 1969 the release of the famous The Beatles studio album entitled Abbey Road.
  • 1979-1990: These years correspond to the leadership of Margaret Tatcher, leader of the Conservative Party or Tory, leading the government of Great Britain. Known as the woman of iron, became the most popular British leader since the postwar period. During the Tatcher government, the lower classes in London suffered the relentless cuts of the Welfare State, while the upper classes, as well as the business sector, could not fare better.
  • 1997: on August 31 of this year died Princess Diana, known as Lady di, in a tragic traffic accident that caused great controversy during the coming years, since the causes that led to it were never well known or if it was an accident or caused. There has also been speculation about the fact that his death was masked.
  • 1997-2007: the government passed to Tony Blair, belonging to the Labor Party, a political party that had not ruled for 18 years. The Labor created the London Assembly in order to have a local government and, thus, elect a mayor for London. London grew during those years to become the London of the 21st century: one of the great capitals worldwide. This boom culminated when it was chosen host city of the 2012 Olympics.
  • 2012: many speak of this year as the year of London, mainly because of the celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which lasted a total of 29 days. On June 3 of this year, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee was celebrated, in honor of the 60th anniversary of her reign.
London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

A referendum on the permanence of the United Kingdom in the European Union was held on June 23, 2016. The result was in favor of leaving the EU, a phenomenon known in English as ‘Brexit‘ (British + Exit).

However, this result is not binding, since prior to the definitive exit from the EU, the British Parliament will have to repeal a series of laws. An example of this is the European Communities Act of 1972.

Top photo by JamesGardinerCollection.

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