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A history of London (1998)

by Stephen Inwood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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353373,030 (4.11)10
"The history of London may indeed comprise a history of printing, the theater, newspapers, museums, pleasure gardens, music hall, international finance, parliamentary government, and the novel, but for Stephen Inwood it is primarily a history of the people whose tastes, talents, trades, and pocketbooks have created this grand, monstrous metropolis - and sometimes threatened to destroy it. For Inwood, the city's history is forged no less by the common Londoners who tore down monasteries, saw their city burn to the ground, fled the plague, poisoned their own water supply, toiled in sweatshops, survived the Blitz, and moved into Council flats than it is by Alfred the Great or William the Conqueror, Henry Bolingbroke or Oliver Cromwell, Geoffrey Chaucer or Anthony Trollope, William Pitt or Margaret Thatcher." "Drawing on a multitude of sources and with an abundance of unfamiliar anecdotes, Inwood vividly explores the history of a city defined as much by the mob as the monarch, the laborer as the lord, and on every colorful page shows why, as Samuel Johnson put it, "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.""--Jacket.… (more)
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Showing 3 of 3
7. A History of London by Stephen Inwood
foreword: Roy Porter
published: 1998
format: 1040-page paperback brick (plus bibliography and index)
acquired: December 2019
read: Dec 11-31, 2019, and Dec 25, 2020 – Feb 14, 2021
time reading: 54 hr 24 min, 3 min/page
rating: 4Β½
locations: πŸ™‚

1000 oversized pages that seem to each somehow get longer as the book progresses. I read half in Dec 2019 when I was able to visit London. Picked it up again Dec 2020 and finally finished last weekend. Itβ€˜s incredibly detailed and thorough. Fascinating throughout, although the interesting bits get more sparse as it goes forward and spends more time on regional government, housing, rails and roads.

I visited London in December 2019, having read to roughly the mid 1700's and I walked through The City, looking for all these locations I had read about, and, if you know London, you can imagine I was little bewildered. Of course, it's not till much later in the book Inwood explained how much was destroyed during and, especially, after WWII.

When I came back to the book this past December, Inwood began covering the expansion of London and all these famous suburbs, some of which I had managed to stumble through. I found this maybe my favorite part of the book. Of course, London kept expanding and expanding (and location names seemed to multiply exponentially).

-------

A note about London in the 1930's

"It was, as it had been for two centuries, Europe's largest and richest consumer market"

on expansion

"By 1939 the area occupied by the London conurbation was more than twice as great as that occupied in 1914, and about six times that of 1880. Most of the London we know today only became part of the conurbation in the interwar years, and well over half the rest is late Victorian or Edwardian. Much of he newly developed land was fertile agricultural land of the highest quality..."

2021
https://www.librarything.com/topic/328037#7430446 ( )
  dchaikin | Feb 21, 2021 |
This is the best history I've read of London so far. It took me a little while to get accustomed to the thematic way the book has been laid out, as opposed to a strictly linear timeline - but it is the most vivid and gripping biography of a city I've read yet. ( )
1 vote trixtah | Aug 18, 2006 |
Two thousand years of history distilled into 1000 pages. This incredibly detailed tome is not one I would sit down and read cover to cover, but I delve into it a bit at a time depending on what I want/need to know, or what I am reading about London in some other book. An absolute must-have for anyone interested in this wonderful city. ( )
1 vote herschelian | Jan 22, 2006 |
Showing 3 of 3
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Inwood, StephenAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Porter, RoyForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I do not at all like that city. All sorts of men crowd together there from every country under the heavens. Each race brings its own vices and its own customs to the city. No one lives in it without falling into some sort of crimes....Whatever evil or malicious thing that can be found in any part of the world, you will find in that one city.

-The 'Chronicle' of Richard of Devizes, c. 1190.
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For Anne-Marie
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"The history of London may indeed comprise a history of printing, the theater, newspapers, museums, pleasure gardens, music hall, international finance, parliamentary government, and the novel, but for Stephen Inwood it is primarily a history of the people whose tastes, talents, trades, and pocketbooks have created this grand, monstrous metropolis - and sometimes threatened to destroy it. For Inwood, the city's history is forged no less by the common Londoners who tore down monasteries, saw their city burn to the ground, fled the plague, poisoned their own water supply, toiled in sweatshops, survived the Blitz, and moved into Council flats than it is by Alfred the Great or William the Conqueror, Henry Bolingbroke or Oliver Cromwell, Geoffrey Chaucer or Anthony Trollope, William Pitt or Margaret Thatcher." "Drawing on a multitude of sources and with an abundance of unfamiliar anecdotes, Inwood vividly explores the history of a city defined as much by the mob as the monarch, the laborer as the lord, and on every colorful page shows why, as Samuel Johnson put it, "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.""--Jacket.

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