"When a man is tired of London," Samuel Johnson noted in 1777, "he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Indeed, for almost two thousand years, London has been the political, cultural, and economic heart of Britain, and one of the great hubs of world affairs.
Now, in this fascinating volume, the doyen of London historians, Francis Sheppard, provides the definitive account of London's diverse past, from its origins as a Roman settlement (founded at the lowest bridgeable point across the Thames) to the world-class metropolis it is today. It provides a vivid account of a city which was the `deere sweete' place which Chaucer loved more than any other city on earth, which was for Dickens his `magic lantern', and to Keats `a great sea', howling for more wrecks. It is also a story of much contrast and remarkable resilience; through great fires and pestilence, civil war, and the Blitz, London has rebuilt and reinvented itself for each generation.
"Sheppard is the great authority to whom we all look up," Roy Porter has written. "He has made the history of London his life's work, and I suspect there's no one in the world with so full a knowledge and so rich a grasp as he of sources, physical fabric, and all manner of details." In this colorful new history, Sheppard takes us on a fascinating voyage through London's past. It is the definitive account of the rise to power of one of the world's great metropolitan centers.
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This comprehensive history of London offers a clearly written and reasonably concise overview of the great city's history, from its founding by invading Romans to its recent status as an international city. Francis Sheppard presupposes that the reader has a general understanding of English history, yet London is not by any means written for specialists. Sheppard takes the reader from the mania for building exhibited by the Romans (including sophisticated bridges across the Thames) through subsequent invasions, plagues, fires, rebellions, and riots in a lucid chronological narrative. Sheppard's authoritative historical research is leavened with tasty tidbits, including descriptions of tavern life, theatrical events, and a seemingly endless supply of royal intrigue.
From ancient Londinium through the London of Chaucer, Dickens, and Churchill, the city's long history is given a treatment both responsible and highly readable. While London: A History is naturally most interesting to Anglophiles, it's worth noting that Sheppard also succeeds in demonstrating the pervasive influence London has had on other cities and societies, so that the history of London is revealed as an essential part of the history of Western civilization. --Robert McNamaraAbout the Author:
Francis Sheppard is the leading authority on London's past. He is the author of The Treasury of London's Past and the editor of Survey of London, volumes twenty-six through forty-one, published between 1956 and 1983. He lives in London.
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