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London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

London: The Biography (2000)

by Peter Ackroyd

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,657463,391 (3.97)160
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» See also 160 mentions

English (44)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
This is a book composed of short essays on some general topics containing a large number of factoids. While the author has assembled a large amount of information about the city it is often, and far too often, dispersed among a number of rapsodies about the wonder and hidden conflicts of the city. It could well have used a timeline, or several essays arranging a connected account of the themes he returns to so constantly. From a marketing point of view it is admirably designed to be consumed in short visits, thus a good book for the morning commute, or for idle moments during a structured day. and a number of historical maps could have aided the non-resident reader a very great deal. Another lack in a book of such an episodic nature, the indexing is very weak. While Mr. Ackroyd, a good stylist, has made a book that will enjoy good sales, it will not in the long run be a keeper. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jan 24, 2019 |
An excellent living history of one of the great cities of the world. Ackroyd has researched London history thoroughly and presented in a way that makes you want to book a flight to London, stet. I haven't spent a lot of time in London but I can imagine using "London: the biography" as a guide to the city, learning of the history of suburbs and streets and how, over the centuries, some buildings seem to attract particular types of business.

This was the first book I've read by Peter Ackroyd and I eagerly dived in to read more of his, only to be left slightly disappointed. No doubt I'll eventually find another of his books to love. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Oct 23, 2018 |
This book was truly extraordinary.

I was looking for an in-depth history of London, and I certainly found it between this book's covers. [a:Peter Ackroyd|16881|Peter Ackroyd|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1232835556p2/16881.jpg] truly did write a biography of London, from its sprawling streets to its strange citizens. His writing is fluid, and fascinating to read; his use of primary sources is utterly astounding, and somewhat maddening, as the cockney can be a bit hard on the eyes.

[a:Peter Ackroyd|16881|Peter Ackroyd|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1232835556p2/16881.jpg]'s book is told in a very loose chronology. While the 'story' begins with prehistory, and ends in the 80s, not much in this book is linear. He makes London timeless, and turns the city into the icon that it is today. The emphasis of the text is upon how little things have changed, even while London is destroyed and rebuilt cyclically. The essence of the city can be found in the hospitals raised upon the sites of druidic wells, the very wells that the Victorians later claimed had healing capabilities.

The triumph of this text is not in the traditional dates and names of rulers, battles, and the like... rather, the triumph is in the fact that it focuses upon the citizens of the empire. Reading this book, you will learn about the conditions of the jails, what Londoner's favorite pasttimes were, how the role of women changed, and how London assimilates the immigrants. You'll read about how little Cockney has changed from the 1500s, and how London's taste for the theatrical existed before Shakespeare came on the scene.

After reading this book, I feel that I have learned more about London than I have from the World History courses I've taken. [a:Peter Ackroyd|16881|Peter Ackroyd|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1232835556p2/16881.jpg] has an eye for what's importance, and brings this city of commerce, violence, and theater to life in a way that no one else has.

Smashing book. ( )
1 vote Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
Very entertaining & informative account of the foremost city in Europe if not the world. ( )
  tommi180744 | Sep 22, 2017 |
What a book. Ackroyd has created the ultimate portrait of London as a living, breathing entity, not just a collection of old buildings and monuments. Rather than a dry chronological trawl through the history of our nation's capital, instead Ackroyd chooses themes and explores them through time and space, focussing on specific areas or ideas. Thus he paints a picture of an ever evolving city that defies all attempts to change or control it. London is its own master.

Ackroyd ranges back and forth through time in pursuit of his themes and as a consequence throws up facts that are never less than interesting, frequently fascinating. All the while he slowly moves us through London's development through the centuries, and my only quibble would be that he skips through the 20th century rather too quickly. But considering the book is 800 pages long and he had a heart attack after finishing it, I'll forgive him that.

If you are looking for a dry history book, look elsewhere. If you are in search of a book about London that is full of ideas and facts backed up by a wealth of research then London: The Biography is for you. Not to everyone's taste, but I found it a great read.
( )
1 vote David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (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.

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Ackroydprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cipriano, EllenDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, MeganCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.

» see all 3 descriptions

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