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London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

London: The Biography (2000)

by Peter Ackroyd

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Excellent history of an interesting city ( )
  TheGoldyns | Sep 16, 2015 |
A rather good book if you are just looking for a "good read", but quite difficult to sift through if you want something to actually look for hard facts about London in. ( )
  PetterKringberg | Sep 5, 2015 |
I have no words for this book - it's just amazing. I've read it three times now, once before I moved to London as a student, once just because and once before I moved to London permanently, and I will read it again. For a 800 page book thats pretty impressive.

Ackroyd personifies London. Its not just this city with some nice buildings and history, its a living breathing thing. I feel it so much more every day that I commute into the city because of this book.

Ackroyd splits up the massive history of London into easy to read and facinating tidbits. Its a book that you could read in small pieces - if the sheer weight of it is too much. I find that I mean to read just a bit and end up half way through the book before I know it.

If your a lover of London read this book - there are no excuses. ( )
  sscarllet | Nov 20, 2014 |
I can't believe I finally finished this, about 2 years in the reading, I think. I lost track of the many times I started it. It was interesting and easy to dip into but did get very scattered at points and tended to repeat itself. I think he needed an editor with a firmer hand, it was worth reading but perhaps not for 760 pages (and I skipped the Essays on the Sources.) I also found some of his conclusions a bit far reaching and the part about Modern London strained credulity. But I enjoyed it and it didn't suffer from the years of reading approach. However, I am glad to place it back on the shelf and move on.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
Atrociously bad. It could be turned into a drinking game -- drink any time Ackroyd uses fallacious logic or uses a completely unrelated and non-universal example to "prove" an absurd point. Of course, then you'd have alcohol poisoning by the end of the first chapter.

If his thesis were that London, as a city, has a particular culture unlike other cities in Britain, then this book might be an interesting amble through different elements of that culture. However, his thesis is that the city itself, in its pavement, sewer systems, buildings, etc., literally speak to the residents and dictate their ways of life.

Yes, that is exactly as crazycakes as it sounds. Up to including his claim that the actual tarmac of the street told the poor, nonwhite protestors to riot against their white oppressors. Also, there's the constant impossible superlativing, making ridiculous claims that London was the first city ever to do ______ in all of history. As if Rome and other ancient metropolises had never been. Calling it shoddy scholarship is generous.

This book IS kind of interesting as an adjunct to Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, if you pretend London is actually fiction. I only made myself finish the book because the anecdotes he paraphrases are fascinating. Sadly, there are no footnotes or endnotes, and he doesn't list his sources for particular stories, so this book is pretty useless as a diving off point into something better.

So...yay badly quoted anecdotes? ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
London is what was meant to be, secured across the centuries in a multiplicity of races, ways and tongues. You could not re-create it; you cannot destroy it. This London is our London, and if you want to know it better, to see it with eyes wide open, then Ackroyd is your indispensable companion.
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For Iain Johnston and Frederick Nicholas Robertson
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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.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385497717, Paperback)

Here are two thousand years of London’s history and folklore, its chroniclers and criminals and plain citizens, its food and drink and countless pleasures. Blackfriar’s and Charing Cross, Paddington and Bedlam. Westminster Abbey and St. Martin in the Fields. Cockneys and vagrants. Immigrants, peasants, and punks. The Plague, the Great Fire, the Blitz. London at all times of day and night, and in all kinds of weather. In well-chosen anecdotes, keen observations, and the words of hundreds of its citizens and visitors, Ackroyd reveals the ingenuity and grit and vitality of London. Through a unique thematic tour of the physical city and its inimitable soul, the city comes alive.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:53 -0400)

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A chronicle of the city from the time of the Druids to the beginning of the twenty-first century discusses its ability to grow and change, and describes stories of London's wealthy streets and impoverished alleys.

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