London History
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Early History of London

From the Roman's through to Rock 'n' Roll

1. The Beginnings; Veni, Vidi, Vici (-55 BC to 604)
2. More Invasions; Here Come The Vikings (604 to 1066)
3. The Final Invasion; William and his Conquerers (1066 to 1300)

The Beginnings; Veni, Vidi, Vici

  -55 BC: The Celts do their own thing

Some Celtic Settlements develop in the area now known as London. Life is simple. The Ancient Britons live in splendid isolation from the rest of Europe. Little evidence exists of their presence in the London area.

  55-54 BC: Caesar comes, sees and sort of conquers

Julius Caesar leads the Roman Empire into Britannia in pursuit of political glory, gold & silver. The River Thames is strategically important for the Romans as an invasion route and for the Celts as a barrier of defence. Caeser proclaims "I came, I saw, I conquered"(veni,vidi,vici) but in reality his invasions are little more than raids.

  43 AD: I Claudius...I conquer

Emperor Claudius begins the real Roman conquest. In August 43 AD Claudius & 50,000 Imperial troops land in Kent. Again the Celts use the Thames for defence. This time the Romans build a fortified port at Londinium. They also build the first London Bridge just a stones throw away from today's structure. (NB The main Roman centre was not Londinium but Camulodunum(Colchester)).

  61 AD: Boadicia goes on a bender

Queen Boadicea leads the Britons(well some of them at least; the Iceni tribe from East Anglia) on a rout and rampage through the Roman capital at Colchester and onto Londinium. However her campaign is shortlived and facing defeat she commits suicide. Live fast, die young...

  61 AD - 410 AD: Boom and bust...

The Romans consolidate Londinium as their new capital. By the 4th Century there are some 30,000 inhabitants of what is now a vibrant commercial centre with protected by extensive defences.
In 410 AD the less than honourable Emperor Honorius withdraws the troops leaving the fledgling city at the mercy of marauding Anglo-Saxons. Needless to say the population collapses and the city is effectively abandoned. Exit the Romans.... (what did the Roman's ever do for us?)

More Invasions; Here Come The Vikings

  604 - 730 : Enter the Angles, Enter the English

London (now known as Ludenwic) begins to grow again populated by Angles, Saxons and some Britons. Once more it becomes the focus of trade on the River Thames. Local Saxons see the light and join the Christian creed. In 604 they are rewarded with a Bishop. In 730 Bede calls the city "the mart of many nations".

  834 - 871 : Attack! Attack! Attack! It's the Vikings...

The Danish Vikings launch a series of raids, leaving the city in ruins and the people in terror. By the 870s the Vikings decide to make London their winter pad.

  886 : Alfred the Great bakes a cake...

Alfred, King of Wessex, recaptures London from the Danes and whiles away his time baking cakes and fortifying the city.

  1013 - 1042 : The Vikings (The Sequel)

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts in 984 and 994, the Vikings regain control of London in 1013 as Ethelred the Unready does a runner. In 1016 Canute, King of Denmark, proclaims himself King of England and makes London his Capital. (Previously Winchester, Wessex was capital)

  1042 : Edward Confesses "I'm celibate"

In 1042 the House of Wessex regains the throne in the form of Edward the Confessor. A profoundly religious man he is responsible for the erection of Westminster Cathedral. Westminster becomes the political and religious centre whilst further downstream The City of London continues as the centre of trade. Celibate and childless, on his death in 1066 Edward leaves the realm up for grabs...

The Final Invasion; William and his Conquerers

  1066 : Harold eyes up the throne, William says don't be so hasty

After Edward's death, King Harold defeats his (Norwegian backed) brother Tostig and heads south to repulse William of Normandy who has crossed the Channel to claim the throne. Their armies face eachother at the Battle of Hastings, Harold's army, tired and hungry after several days rapid march, are no match for the waiting Normans. Harold takes an arrow in the eye and William seizes the day. All Hail William the Conqueror, who crowns himself King of England at his coronation in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066. This is the last succesful invasion of England.

  1086 : Watch out it's Domesday

William turns out to be a strong and innovative King. He wants to know all about his new kingdom and orders the preparation of a survey of the whole state. This survey is known as the Domesday Book. It enables him to know exactly what goodies there are for him to grab in taxes and leaves us a legacy of an accurate guide to the society of the time. Many references are made to London and the numerous villages surrounding it. William builds several castles in London (including the White Tower at the heart of today's Tower of London) and one in Windsor (now the Queen's suburban home). However, he understands the commercial power of The City and allows it a good deal of autonomy.

  1086 - 1300 : Normans and Plantagenets preside over a cosmopolitan city

The office of Mayor of London is created in 1200. The financial strength of The City allows it to grab further concessions from the monarchy. Many foreign merchants take advantage of the favourable trading conditions of London. They are not always welcome, with the prosperous Jewish community being expelled in 1290.

(Coming Soon)

Medieval Mayhem; or Plague, Henry, Fire and More Plague
Industrial Revolution; A Metropolis is Born
Victorian London; Winners & Losers
Modern London; Two World Wars and One World Cup