The City of London has a unique and vibrant history that spans over 2,000 years of recorded history. Over that time it has grown as an economic and cultural capital of the world. Much of that activity has occurred outside the original City of London in Greater London and nearby parts of the adjoining Home Counties.

Prehistoric LondonEdit

In the early 12th century, the British historian Geoffrey of Monmouth described the founding of London in the historical account Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain). According to Geoffrey, London was founded by Brutus of Troy subsequent to slaying a pair of giants. The city was then named Caer Troia, or New Troy. Geoffrey then goes on to detail the line of kings that ruled over London. One of these kings, King Lud, renamed the city CaerLudein, from which the name "London" is derived.

Geoffrey of Monmouth's account has long since been disproved as legendary pseudo-history. Despite numerous excavations, archaeologists have found no clear evidence of a major prehistoric settlement in the area. It is likely that what is modern-day London did not exist. It was likely there were only a scattered group of small settlements in its place. The river Thames proved an important boundary for these various prehistoric settlements.

Roman LondonEdit

The origins of modern-day London begin with ancient Rome. The Romans invaded Britain (then Britannia) in the year 43 AD. Early Roman London (Londinium) was little more than 600 acres in size. In 60 AD the Iceni leader, Queen Boudica, led a rebellion against Rome and burned the city to the ground. Ten to fifteen years after the rebellion the city was rebuilt and began to prosper. At some time between 190 and 225 AD, the Romans built the London Wall. The Wall was two miles long, twenty feet high and eight feet thick. However, in spite of the success of Roman London in the first century, political instability and economic circumstances led to a gradual decline from the 3rd century onward.

To compound Londinium's problems, during the late third century, Saxon pirates periodically raided the city. By 410 AD Rome no longer occupied Britannia and Londinium was abandoned.

Anglo-Saxon LondonEdit

Until recently it was believed that Anglo-Saxon settlers initially avoided the area immediately around Londinium. However, the discovery in 2008 of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Covent Garden indicates that the incomers had begun to settle there at least as early as the 6th century and possibly in the 5th. The main focus of this settlement was outside the Roman walls, clustering a short distance to the west along what is now the Strand , between the Aldwych and Trafalgar Square . It was known as Lundenwic.

Early Anglo-Saxon London was dominated by the Middle Saxons. However, by the early 7th century the London area had been incorporated into the kingdom of the East Saxons. In 604 King Saebert of Essex converted to Christianity and London received its first post-Roman bishop. The permanent establishment of Christianity in the Essex kingdom took place in the reign of King Sigeberht II in the 650s. During the 8th century the kingdom of Mercia extended its dominance over south-eastern England, initially through overlordship which at times developed into outright annexation. London seems to have come under direct Mercian control in the 730s.

Viking attacks dominated most of the 9th century from around 830 onward. London was sacked in 842 and again in 851. The Danish "Great Heathen Army", which had rampaged across England since 865, spent the winter in London in 871. The city remained in Danish hands until 886, when it was captured by the forces of King Alfred the Great of Wessex and reincorporated into Mercia, which was governed by his son-in-law Ealdorman Æthelred. Around this time the focus of settlement moved within the old Roman walls for defensive purposes and the city became known as Lundenburgh. The Roman walls were repaired and the defensive ditch re-cut, while the bridge was probably rebuilt at this time.

From this point, the City of London began to develop its own unique local government. Following Æthelred's death in 911 it was transferred to Wessex, preceding the absorption of the rest of Mercia in 918. Although it faced competition for political preeminence in the united Kingdom of England from the traditional West Saxon centre of Winchester, London's size and commercial wealth brought it a steadily increasing importance as a focus of governmental activity. King Aethelstan held many meetings of the witan in London and issued laws from there, while King Æthelred the Unready issued the Laws of London there in 978.

Following the resumption of Viking attacks during the reign of Æthelred, London was unsuccessfully attacked in 994 by an army under King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. As English resistance to the sustained and escalating Danish onslaught finally collapsed in 1013, London repulsed an attack by the Danes and was the last place to hold out while the rest of the country submitted to Sweyn, but by the end of the year it too capitulated and Æthelred fled. Sweyn died just five weeks after having been proclaimed king and Æthelred was restored to the throne, but Sweyn's son Cnut returned to the attack in 1015. After Æthelred's death at London in 1016 his son Edmund Ironside was proclaimed king there by the witangemot (meaning an "Meeting of wise men") and left to gather military forces in Wessex. London was then subjected to a systematic siege by Cnut but was relieved by King Edmund's army; when Edmund again left to recruit reinforcements in Wessex the Danes resumed the siege but were again unsuccessful. However, following his defeat at the Battle of Ashdown Edmund ceded to Cnut all of England north of the Thames, including London, and his death a few weeks later left in Cnut in control of the whole country.

Following the extinction of Cnut's dynasty in 1042 English rule was restored under Edward the Confessor. He was responsible for the foundation of Westminster Abbey and spent much of his time at Westminster , which from this time steadily supplanted the City itself as the centre of government. Edward's death at Westminster in 1066 without a clear heir led to a succession dispute and the Norman conquest of England. Earl Harold Godwinson was elected king by the witangemot and crowned in Westminster Abbey but was defeated and killed by William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, at the Battle of Hastings. Having occupied London William was crowned king in Westminster Abbey.

Medieval LondonEdit

Tudor London (1485-1603)Edit

Stuart London (1603-1714)Edit

18th Century and Industrial Revolution (1714-1900)Edit

1900 through World War II (1900-1945)Edit

Modern Era (1945-present)Edit

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