Historical Information

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Historical Information

Post by Ac1ds0ld13r on Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:16 pm

Londinium was established as a civilian town by the Romans about seven years after the invasion of AD 43. Early Roman London occupied a relatively small area, roughly equivalent to the size of Hyde Park. In around AD 60, it was destroyed by the Iceni led by their queen Boudica. However, the city was quickly rebuilt as a planned Roman town and recovered after perhaps 10 years, the city growing rapidly over the following decades. During the 2nd century Londinium was at its height and replaced Colchester as the capital of Roman Britain (Britannia). Its population was around 60,000 inhabitants. It boasted major public buildings, including the largest basilica north of the Alps, temples, bath houses, amphitheatre and a large fort for the city garrison. Political instability and recession from the 3rd century onwards, however, led to a slow decline.

At some time between 190 and 225 AD the Romans built the defensive London Wall - around the landward side of the city. The wall was about 3 kilometres (2 miles) long, 6 metres (20 ft) high, and 2.5 metres (8 ft) thick.

In the late 3rd century, Londinium was raided on several occasions by Saxon pirates.[citation needed] This led, from around 255 onwards, to the construction of an additional riverside wall. The wall would survive for another 1,600 years and define London's perimeters for centuries to come. Six of the traditional seven city gates of London are of Roman origin, namely: Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate (Moorgate is the exception, being of medieval origin).

By the 5th century the Roman Empire was in rapid decline, and in 410 AD the Roman occupation of Britain came to an end. Following this, the Roman city also went into rapid decline and by the end of the century was practically abandoned.


[edit] Anglo-Saxon London
Main article: Anglo-Saxon London
Following the virtual abandonment of the Roman city, the area's strategic location on the River Thames meant that the site was not deserted for long. From the 6th century, Anglo-Saxons began to inhabit the area.

Although early Anglo-Saxon settlement avoided the area immediately around Londinium, there was occupation on a small scale of much of the hinterland on both sides of the river. There is no contemporary literary evidence, but the area must for some time have been an active frontier between Saxons and Britons. From the mid-6th century, the London area was incorporated into the East Saxons kingdom, which extended as far west as St Albans and included all of later Middlesex, and probably Surrey, too, for a time. In 604 Saeberht of the East Saxons converted to Christianity and London received Mellitus, its first post-Roman bishop. At this time Essex owed allegiance to the Bretwalda Æthelberht of Kent, and it was under Æthelberht that Mellitus founded the first St. Paul's Cathedral, traditionally said to be on the site of an old Roman Temple of Diana (although Christopher Wren found no evidence of this). This would have only been a modest church at first and may well have been destroyed after he was expelled from the city by Saeberht's pagan successors.

Later in the 7th century a Saxon village and trading centre named Lundenwic ("London settlement")[3] was established approximately one mile to the west of Londinium. The new town came under direct Mercian control in c.730 as the East Saxon kingdom of which it had once been part was gradually reduced in size and status. Mercian lordship was replaced by that of Wessex after 825.


Alfred the GreatViking attacks dominated most of the 9th century, and such attacks became increasingly common from around 830 onwards. There were attacks on London in 842 and 851. In 865 the Viking "Great Heathen Army" launched a large scale invasion of East Anglia, and by 871 they had reached London, and are believed to have camped within the old Roman walls during the winter of that year. Although it is unclear what happened during this time, London may have come under Viking control for a period. In 878 however, English forces led by King Alfred the Great defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Ethandun and forced the Viking leader Guthrum to sue for peace. English rule in London was restored and within ten years settlement within the old Roman walls was re-established to improve defences, but known as Lundenburgh. The Roman walls were repaired and the defensive ditch re-cut. As the focus of the city was moved back to within the old Roman walls, the older settlement of Lundenwic gained the name of ealdwic or "old settlement". The name survives today as Aldwych.

Alfred appointed his son-in-law Æthelred, who was the heir to the destroyed Kingdom of Mercia, as Governor of London and established two defended Boroughs to defend the bridge which was probably rebuilt at this time. The southern end of the Bridge was established as the Borough of Southwark or Suthringa Geworc (defensive work of the men of Surrey) as it was originally known. From this point, the City of London began to develop its own unique local government.

After Æthelred's death, London came under the direct control of English kings. By the early 10th century London had become an important commercial centre. Although the capital of the Kingdom of England was in Winchester, London became increasingly important as a political centre. King Aethelstan held many Royal Councils in London and issued laws from there. King Æthelred the Unready favoured London as his capital and issued the Laws of London there in 978.

It was during the reign of Æthelred that Viking raids began again, led by King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. London was unsuccessfully attacked in 994, but numerous raids followed. By 1013 London was being besieged and Æthelred fled abroad. King Sven died but his son Canute continued the attacks and eventually overran the city.


Runestone Dr 337 was raised in memory of two Vikings who died in London.A Norse saga tells of a battle during the Viking occupation where Æthelred returned to attack Viking-occupied London. According to the sage, the Danes lined London Bridge and showered the attackers with spears. Undaunted, the attackers pulled the roofs off nearby houses and held them over their heads in the boats. Thus protected, they were able to get close enough to the bridge to attach ropes to the piers and pull the bridge down, thus ending the Viking occupation of London. There is some speculation that the nursery rhyme "London Bridge is falling down" stems from this incident.

The Vikings however returned and Aethelred's son Edmund Ironside initially managed to hold back the invaders. However, he was eventually forced to share power with Canute. When Edmund died Canute became the sole King of England. After two short lived Danish kings, the Anglo-Saxon line was restored when Canute's stepson Edward the Confessor took up the throne in 1042.

Following Edward's death, no clear heir was apparent, and his cousin, Duke William of Normandy, claimed the throne. The Royal Council, however, met in the city and elected the dead King's brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson as King. He was crowned in Westminster Abbey. William, outraged by this, then sent an army to invade England.


[edit] Norman and Medieval London
Main article: Norman and Medieval London

London in 1300.The Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 is usually considered to be the beginning of the Medieval period. William, Duke of Normandy, killed English king Harold Godwinson in the Battle of Hastings. Although he burnt down Southwark, south of the bridge, he avoided London, instead waiting to the north-west at Berkhamsted until the city officials in London recognised him as King. They quickly did so, and William responded by granting the city a formal charter

Under William (now known as William the Conqueror) several royal forts were constructed along the riverfront of London (the Tower of London, Baynard's Castle and Montfichet's Castle) to defend against seaborne attacks by Vikings and prevent rebellions. William the Conqueror also granted a charter in 1067 upholding previous Saxon rights, privileges and laws. Its growing self-government became firm with election rights granted by King John in 1199 and 1215.

In 1097 William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror began the construction of 'Westminster Hall'. The hall was to become the basis of the Palace of Westminster which, throughout the Medieval period, was the prime royal residence.


The Tower of London.In 1176 construction began of the most famous incarnation of London Bridge (completed in 1209) which was built on the site of several earlier wooden bridges. This bridge would last for 600 years, and remained the only bridge across the River Thames until 1739.

May 1216 saw the last time that London was truly occupied by a continental armed force, during the First Barons' War. This was when the young Louis VIII of France marched through the streets to St Paul's Cathedral. Throughout the city and in the cathedral he was celebrated as the new ruler.

It was expected that this would free the English from the tyranny of King John. This was only temporarily true. The barons supporting the 29-year old French prince decided to throw their support back to an English king when John died. Over the next several hundred years, London would shake off the heavy French cultural and linguistic influence which had been there since the times of the Norman conquest. The city, like Dover, would figure heavily into the development of Early Modern English.

During the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 led by Wat Tyler, London was invaded. A group of peasants stormed the Tower of London and executed the Lord Chancellor, Archbishop Simon Sudbury, and the Lord Treasurer. The peasants looted the city and set fire to numerous buildings. Tyler was stabbed to death by the Lord Mayor William Walworth in a confrontation at Smithfield, thus ending the revolt.

During the medieval period London grew up in two different parts. The nearby up-river town of Westminster became the Royal capital and centre of government, whereas the City of London became the centre of commerce and trade. The area between them became entirely urbanised by 1600.

Trade and commerce grew steadily during the Middle Ages, and London grew rapidly as a result. In 1100 London's population was little more than 15,000. By 1300 it had grown to roughly 80,000. Trade in London was organised into various guilds, which effectively controlled the city, and elected the Lord Mayor of the City of London.

Medieval London was made up of narrow and twisting streets, and most of the buildings were made from combustible materials such as wood and straw, which made fire a constant threat. Sanitation in London was poor. London lost at least half of its population during the Black Death in the mid-14th century. Between 1348 and the Great Plague of 1665 there were sixteen outbreaks of plague in the city.


[edit] Tudor London (1485-1603)
Main article: Tudor London

John Norden's 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.The Tudor period from 1485 until 1603 was a dramatic period of English history. Three of the monarchs of the Tudor dynasty (Henry VII, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I) played important roles in transforming England from a comparatively weak European backwater into a powerful state that in the coming centuries would dominate much of the world. The period saw the end of the Wars of the Roses the English Reformation and the Elizabethan era.

The Reformation produced little bloodshed in London, with most of the higher classes co-operating to bring about a gradual shift to Protestantism. Before the Reformation, more than half of the area of London was occupied by monasteries, nunneries and other religious houses, and about a third of the inhabitants were monks, nuns and friars. Thus Henry VIII's "Dissolution of the Monasteries" had a profound effect on the city as nearly all of this property changed hands. The process started in the mid 1530s, and by 1538 most of the larger houses had been abolished. Holy Trinity Aldgate went to Lord Audley, and the Marquess of Winchester built himself a house in part of its precincts. The Charterhouse went to Lord North, Blackfriars to Lord Cobham, the leper hospital of St Giles to Lord Dudley, while the king took for himself the leper hospital of St James, which was rebuilt as St James's Palace.[4]

The period saw London was rapidly rising in importance amongst Europe's commercial centres, its many small industries were booming, especially weaving. Trade expanded beyond Western Europe to Russia, the Levant, and the Americas. This was the period of mercantilism and monopoly trading companies such as the Russia Company (1555) and the British East India Company (1600) were established in London by Royal Charter. The latter, which ultimately came to rule much of India, was one of the key institutions in London, and in Britain as a whole, for two and a half centuries. In 1572 the Spanish destroyed the great commercial city of Antwerp, giving London first place among the North Sea ports. Immigrants arrived in London not just from all over England and Wales, but from abroad as well, for example Huguenots from France; the population rose from an estimated 50,000 in 1530 to about 225,000 in 1605.[4] The growth of the population and wealth of London was fuelled by a vast expansion in the use of coastal shipping to import coal from Newcastle.

The late 16th century, when William Shakespeare and his contemporaries lived and worked in London, was one of the most lustrous periods in the city's cultural history. There was considerable hostility to the development of the theatre however. Public entertainments produced crowds, and crowds were feared by the authorities because they might become mobs, and by many ordinary citizens who dreaded that large gatherings might contribute to the spread of plague. Theatre itself was discountenanced by the increasingly influential Puritan strand in the nation. However, Queen Elizabeth loved plays, which were performed for her privately at Court, and approved of public performances.

During the mostly calm later years of Elizabeth's reign, some of her courtiers and some of the wealthier citizens of London built themselves country residences in Middlesex, Essex and Surrey. This was an early stirring of the villa movement, the taste for residences which were neither of the city nor on an agricultural estate, but when the last of the Tudors died in 1603, London was still very compact.

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