Since its first-century beginnings as a Roman outpost on the banks of the Thames to its status in the twenty-first as a cosmopolitan world capital, London has belonged to outsiders. From Europe's major cultural centers and every English-speaking corner of the Commonwealth, in successive waves of migration they have come to London -- the merchants and traders, the artists and artisans, the refugees and dreamers and speculators and financiers -- and each in their turn has left a distinctive mark on the city's cultural map. For Stephen Inwood, London's history belongs primarily to these people whose tastes, talents, trades, and pocketbooks have continually reinvented the grand metropolis -- and sometimes threatened to destroy it. Drawing on a multitude of sources and an abundance of unfamiliar anecdotes, Inwood tirelessly explores the history of a city defined as much by the mob as the monarch, and on every page shows why, as Samuel Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
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Stephen Inwood was born in London in 1947, the son of a taxi driver. After studying at Balliol and St. Antony's College, Oxford, he was for many years a university history lecturer before becoming a professional writer after publication of his highly acclaimed A History Of London in 1999. He is an Associate Professor of New York University in London, and a Research Fellow at Kingston University. He lives in Richmond, West London, with his wife and sons.From Kirkus Reviews:
An accurate and capably told history of London, thoroughly researched and presented in exhaustive detail. Inwood, a principal lecturer in history at Englands Thames Valley University, begins his economic and social history with Londons founding as an outpost of the Roman Empire and continues to the present. He is chiefly concerned with where and how Londoners worked and led their daily lives. Ideally situated geographically, London has always been most important as a center of trade and commerce. It has also served as a social, cultural, religious, and intellectual center, providing its citizens with stimulation that could be found nowhere else in the British realm. The author's main focus is on the various trades, professions, and social groups, their interactions with one another, the Crown, and the local government as embodied in the city's aldermen and lord mayor. London's frequent transformations in building and design have been due chiefly to the devastating fires that have wreaked temporary havoc on its landscape. Key to the citys eminence, as well as to its steady population growth through WWII, has been the large numbers of foreigners who made it cosmopolitan even in the Middle Ages. Although London's significance to Britains history cannot be overstated, Inwood tends to understate it by losing sight of the context in which London's history has occurred. This shortcoming makes the book a hard read. Better maps would have made the overwhelming detail more intelligible, and a summing up at the end of chapters or sections would have helped give relevance to the multitudinous facts. In all, though, Inwood makes use of the most recent material available, including new archaeological finds, and gives us a reliable sourcebook to which we can turn with confidence when needed. (32 pages b&w illustrations, 10 maps) (Book-of-the- Month/History Book Club selection) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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