London, A Social History

London, A Social History

Book - 1995
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This dazzling and yet intimate book is the first modern one-volume history of London from Roman times to the present. An extraordinary city, London grew from a backwater in the Classical age into an important medieval city, a significant Renaissance urban center, and a modern colossus. Roy Porter paints a detailed landscape--from the grid streets and fortresses of Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror to the medieval, walled most noble city of churches, friars, and crown and town relationships. Within the crenelated battlements, manufactures and markets developed and street-life buzzed. London's profile in 1500 was much as it was at the peak of Roman power. The city owed its courtly splendor and national pride of the Tudor Age to the phenomenal expansion of its capital. It was the envy of foreigners, the spur of civic patriotism, and a hub of culture, architecture, great literature, and new religion. From the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, London experienced a cruel civil war, raging fires, enlightenment in thought, government, and living, and the struggle and benefits of empire. From the lament that London was but is no more to you, who are to stand a wonder to all Years and ages...a phoenix, London became an elegant, eye-catching, metropolitan hub. It was a mosaic, Porter shows, that represented the shared values of a people--both high and low born--at work and play. London was and is a wonder city, a marvel. Not since ancient times has there been such a city--not eternal, but vibrant, living, full of a free people ever evolving. In this transcendent book, Roy Porter touches the pulse of his hometown and makes it our own, capturing London's fortunes, people, and imperial glory with brio and wit.
Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1995
ISBN: 9780674538382
0674538382
Characteristics: xv, 431 pages :,illustrations, maps ;,25 cm

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Nov 06, 2012

London: a Social History --- by Roy Porter. London, once the undisputed leading city of the entire world has seen its position as alpha metropolis of the entire world eclipsed. It once stood as the premier city of the entire British Empire but then as went the Empire so did London. Porter’s book purports to examine its social history --- a tall order --- one that is, perhaps inevitably, vexed with a task that is almost doomed to be a little less than exciting. The first half of the book is, in the main, a less than gripping litany of what was built where, by whom and when. Less than riveting. Maybe it would help if you were a native Londoner: for someone in the colonies this is a little meaningless. Porter gives relatively short shrift to the plague of 1665 or the great fire of the following year. The transportation changes wrought by the horse-drawn omnibus (1829); the horse-drawn tram, thirty years later; the first railway (1839) and the effect these had on the morphology of the city are all here. And yet, this is not a book that grips the reader. Unless there is some external motivation, such as the need to research for a paper (the under linings in my library copy indicated that this book was used (or abused more precisely) for this purpose at least once) the reader may not exactly find this opus compelling. I abandoned this book about half way through, dizzy with who, what, where and etcetera. Keep it at bedside: this is a mighty soporific.

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