London ( England ) , city ,is the capital of the United Kingdom . It is situated in south – eastern England at the head of the River Thames estuary . Settled by the Romans as an important shipping point for crops and minerals , it gradually developed into the wealthy capital of a thriving industrial and agricultural nation . The expansion in the 19th century of the British Empire increased London’s influence still further . SinceWorld War II the city’s prominence on the international stage has diminshed , but it remains a flourishing financial centre and home to one of the world’s most important stock exchanges . In addition , it is the foremost tourist destination in Britain , a centre of academic excellence and one of the cultural capitals of the world – well deserving of the observation by Samuel Johnson that : ” When a man is tired of London , he is tired of life “ .
The term “ City of London “ , or “the City “ , is applied only to a small area known as the SquareMile ( 2.59 sq km/1 sq mi ) that was the original settlement (ancient Londinium ) and is now part of the financial and business district of the metropolis . The city of London and 32 surrounding boroughs constitute the Greater London metropolitan area , which covers some 1,580 sq km (620 sq mi ). The 13 inner London boroughs are Camden , Hackney , Hammersmith and Fulham , Haringery , Islington , Kensington and Chelsea , Lambeth , Lewisham , Newham , Southwark , Tower Hamlets , Wandsworth and the City of Westminster . The 19 outer boroughs are Barking and Dagenham , Barnet , Bexley , Brent , Bromley , Croydon , Ealing , Enfield , Greenwich , Harrow , Havering , Hillingdon , Hounslow , Kingston upon Thames , Merton Redbridge , Richmond upon Thames , Sutton and Waltham Forest .
London’s museums and art galleries contain some of the most comprehesive collection of objects of artistic , archaeological , dcientific , historical and general interest . The British Museum in Bloomsbury is one of the biggest an most famous museums in the world . Its collectionrange from Egyptian and Classical antiquities through Saxon treasures to more recent artefacts .
The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington is an assembly of fine and decorative art collection from all over the world . There are magnificent examples of porcelain , glass , sculpture , fabrics and costume , furniture , and musical instruments , all set in a building of Victorian grandeur .Nearby are the Museum of Natural History and the Science Museum . On the other side of London , in the city itself , is the Museum of London , which has exhibits dealing with the development of the capital from its origins to the present day .
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square contains one of the finest mixed collections of paintings in the world . Next door is the NationalPortrait Gallery , whose collection includes more than 9,000 portraits . The Tate Gallery , situated on the Embankmen between Chelsea and Westminster , houses the largest collection of British painting from the 16th century to the present day . In 1987 an extension opened to house the paintings bequeathed to the nation by J.M.W.Turner . There are plans to establish a new Tate Gallery of Modern Art in Southwark , near the reconstructed Shakespearean theatre , the Globe .
Other important collections in the capital include the Imperial War Museum , the National Army Museum , the Royal Air Force Museum , the National Maritime Museum , the Wallace Collection ( of paintings , furniture , arms and armour , and objets d’art ), Sir John Soane’s Museum (founded by the architect of the Bank of England in the City ), and the London Transport Museum . The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace has axhibitions of pictures from the extensive royal collection . The Theatre Museum displays the history of the performings arts , while the Museum of the Moving Image traces the history of film and television .
The British Library , the national library of Britain , has a collection of more than 150 million separate items . Publishers must deposit in the Library a copy of everything they publish
Medieval London Viking raids in the 19th century affected all England . London was a prime target and for that reason strategically ever more important for the survival of the Anglo – Saxon kingdoms . In consequence London replaced Winchester as the defacto capital of the southern kingdoms . Time and again in the 9th and 10th centuries the city was assailed and chroniclers report savage attacks and heroic defences . Defence needs led to the emergence of aldermen – headmen of the precincts (or wards ) of the city , who serves as its military defenders . Here liethe roots of
Though the Viking threatwas eventually seen off , the Anglo – Saxon monarchy could not repulse the Normans . After the defeat of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 , William , Duke of Normandy , quickly installed himself in London , had himself crowned on Chrismas Day and made it his headquarters , building the White Tower , a monumental stone keep that was to form the core of the Tower of London . The Normans restordthe walls and rebuilt London Bridge in stone for the first time . William II , the Conqueror’s son , developed Westminster Hall 3km (2 mi ) upriver from the Tower as his royal palace and a bolt-hole safe from fractious burghers . Thereafter , the capital’s history was always in some measure a tale of two cities : the City of London itself , the square mile first circumscribed by the Roman walls , settled by the Saxons and Normans , and destined to become the economic activity ; and , on the other hand , the City of Westminster with its two focuses of Westminster Abbey andWestminster Hall , which became the home of the royal court and later of Parliament .
The Normans and later the Plantagenets , made England strong and London flourished as their capital and as a port and manufacturing centre . Much of England’s lucrative trade in wool and agricultural produce was floated down the Thames and exported via the wharves and jetties just downstream of London Bridge . Within the walls , skilled crafts flourished and especially from the 14th century , these were organized into over 100guilds , such as the Mercers , Salters , Fishmongers and Vintners . A mixture of trade union and empliyers’ company , guilds were self-regulating bodies with the power to admit apprentices and appoint freemen (who thereby became citizens ) .Trades were localized and often associated with a particular street that still survives today:for example , Wood Street , Milk Street , Ironmonger Lane and Poultry still branch off Cheapside (” cheap “ is from the Anglo – Saxon for “market “ ) .
From the 15th century , London’s government was conducted from the Guildhall , an impressive stone building that in part survives . Beneath the Mayor there was the Court of Aldermen , the Common Counciland the Common Hall . Tensions often arose among these bodies , and also between the assemblies and the guilds , but London managed to escape the internecine urban warfare so common in late medieval Italy . The emergence of Parliament conferred further importance on London , since its meetings were increasingly held in Westminster Hall .
London’s prosperity was temporarily affected by the Black Death of 1348-1349, a bubonic plague epidemic that killed up to one third of the entire population . That did not , however , prove a long – term setback and much evidence siggests thatLondon enjoyed self – confident prosperity in the late Middle Ages . The guilds staged elaborate pageantry with their calendar festivities , and the Canterbury Tales , written by Geoffrey Chaucer around 1390 , gives a vivid picture of pilgrims setting off to Canterbury from theTabard Inn in Southwark , at the south end of London Bridge .
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