"If you were to touch the plinth upon which the equestrian statue of King Charles I is placed, at Charing Cross, your fingers might rest upon the projecting fossils of sea lilies, starfish or sea urchins. There is a photograph of that statue taken in 1839; with its images of hackney cabs and small boys in stove-pipe hats the scene already seems remote, and yet how unimaginably distant lies the life of those tiny marine creatures. In the beginning was the sea. There was once a music-hall song entitled 'Why Can't We Have the Sea in London?', but the question is redundant; the site of the capital, fifty million years before, was covered by great waters." - Peter Ackroyd
The history of London is a long and colourful one. From its ancient roots, its kings and its conquests, its rapid growth and splendour during its zenith as capital of the British Empire, and its modern day status as one of the world's leading financial and cultural capitals, London is a city of character, of courage and above all of perpetual change.
It is thought that London first started to grow as an important settlement when the Romans arrived in around 43 AD. Prior to this, there were some smaller settlements that were soon swallowed up by the might of the Roman army. Plenty of turbulent times were to come for London, with invasions and power struggles over the years. After the Romans left, the Anglo-Saxons came and were repeatedly attacked by Vikings who came from Scandinavian countries.
In Norman times, London became the firm favourite as a centre of commerce and a capital city following the construction of Westminster and this was set to stay for good after William the Conqueror built the Tower of London following his victory in 1066. Slaves were brought over to England from Africa during Tudor times, from 1485 – 1603. At the same time, Jews and Muslims as well as Dutch Traders had also begun to arrive and settle in London. These arrivals sowed the seed for London’s diversity that can be seen today.
During the 1800’s, the slave trade had been abolished and London’s black communities had grown considerably. More people came from south Asian areas and China. The Jewish population continued to grow as people fled persecution in Eastern Europe. By the time World War II started, even more people came to fill job vacancies from The West Indies, Europe and India. People from the West Indies or the Caribbean were especially in demand and found essential employment on the London Underground railway system whilst Asians found work in the textiles industry.
Today, London has continued to grow both in terms of size and in terms of diversity. Londoners have a firm reputation for being tolerant and accepting, and for providing a haven for people who have been persecuted in their own countries. London has really benefitted from having a melting pot of nationalities, especially when there has been a shortage of workers which happened following 1945 when World War II ended.
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A new London History website is also being set up. More details to follow shortly.