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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very comprehensive, 23 Jan 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
Stephen Inwood has put together perhaps the most complete single-volume history of London to date. While many historians focus on a particular London (and yes, there are many Londons -- literary London, political London, et al.), and Inwood is no exception in taking particular focus at different times, this book touches on all the facets, by concentrating largely on London's inhabitants, and, as they belong to different Londons, exploring their native Londons and the interactions between the differing Londons.
Inwood from his childhood looked upon London as a 'remote and fascinating place'. His father as a London cab driver (as one finds, when living in or visiting London, often those who know the city best). Inwood infuses his memory of this fascination on every page of this 1100 page text, eliminating the remoteness by description and analysis that is excellent. As Inwood says, 'You can still walk the streets that Boswell and Dickens walked, and even, if you look carefully, see some of the buildings they saw.'
Inwood, realising that many histories begin with the 'easy bits', tackled the problem of writing history from the beginning, with Londinium, and even before. 'The first known inhabitants of the Greater London aea were the late Ice Age (8000 BC) hunters whose flint tools and reindeer bones were found in Uxbridge in the 1980s. From there he traces the founding of Londinium through Boudicca's revolt to Flavian Londinium to its virtual abandonment. London again had a revival during Anglo-Saxon times, being rebuilt by Alfred the Great or his son, Edward the Elder.
Edward the Confessor and his briefly tenured successor, Harold, helped intensify the significance of London by building, consecrating and then turning Westminster Abbey into a fundamental symbol of royal power -- the coronation at Westminster Abbey has remained a strong tradition for 900 years. London the city, however, had a love-hate relationship with royalty, and to this day the Lord Mayor has a ceremonial power to refuse the monarch entrance to the city, much in the way the door to the House of Commons is slammed in the face of Black Rod, the House of Lords representative sent to summon the Members to attend the proceedings in the house of peers.
Inwood's sensitivity to issues grand and small is in evidence throughout, by attending to sweeping urban planning issues to taking up a discussion of the role of Gentlemen's Clubs, 'Those who could not gain access to the best dining rooms could enjoy many of the pleasures of London society (the exclusively masculine pleasures, at any event) by becoming a member of one of the West End clubs...'
Inwood makes the observation that 'in the 1990s they could find England's most extreme social and economic contrasts within 5 miles of Parliament Square', and this is true on the whole, for the wealthy and the destitute both tend to flock to the urban scene. London has suffered by not having a central government, the only major city without such government, not that the GLC was effective, but that something needs to be done -- and perhaps the new mayoral initiative will bring some hope. London's 1993 GDP was about 110 billion GBP (180 billion USdollars), bigger than the GDP of Russia - 'a city with the capacity to generate wealth on such a scale does not need to endure overfilled railway carriages, understocked classrooms, decaying social services, underfunded libraries, neglected housing estates or families living in fire-trap bed-and-breakfast accommodation.'
Inwood concludes with an early comment on London: 'The city is delightful indeed, when it has a good governor,' penned by William Fitzstephen in 1173. Of course, today's problems are not unique even to London, as this history demonstrates admirably.
This is a history that is well worth the investment of the time it takes to read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very comprehensive, 27 Feb 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
Stephen Inwood has put together perhaps the most complete single-volume history of London to date. While many historians focus on a particular London (and yes, there are many Londons -- literary London, political London, et al.), and Inwood is no exception in taking particular focus at different times, this book touches on all the facets, by concentrating largely on London's inhabitants, and, as they belong to different Londons, exploring their native Londons and the interactions between the differing Londons.
Inwood from his childhood looked upon London as a 'remote and fascinating place'. His father as a London cab driver (as one finds, when living in or visiting London, often those who know the city best). Inwood infuses his memory of this fascination on every page of this 1100 page text, eliminating the remoteness by description and analysis that is excellent. As Inwood says, 'You can still walk the streets that Boswell and Dickens walked, and even, if you look carefully, see some of the buildings they saw.'
Inwood, realising that many histories begin with the 'easy bits', tackled the problem of writing history from the beginning, with Londinium, and even before. 'The first known inhabitants of the Greater London aea were the late Ice Age (8000 BC) hunters whose flint tools and reindeer bones were found in Uxbridge in the 1980s. From there he traces the founding of Londinium through Boudicca's revolt to Flavian Londinium to its virtual abandonment. London again had a revival during Anglo-Saxon times, being rebuilt by Alfred the Great or his son, Edward the Elder.
Edward the Confessor and his briefly tenured successor, Harold, helped intensify the significance of London by building, consecrating and then turning Westminster Abbey into a fundamental symbol of royal power -- the coronation at Westminster Abbey has remained a strong tradition for 900 years. London the city, however, had a love-hate relationship with royalty, and to this day the Lord Mayor has a ceremonial power to refuse the monarch entrance to the city, much in the way the door to the House of Commons is slammed in the face of Black Rod, the House of Lords representative sent to summon the Members to attend the proceedings in the house of peers.
Inwood's sensitivity to issues grand and small is in evidence throughout, by attending to sweeping urban planning issues to taking up a discussion of the role of Gentlemen's Clubs, 'Those who could not gain access to the best dining rooms could enjoy many of the pleasures of London society (the exclusively masculine pleasures, at any event) by becoming a member of one of the West End clubs...'
Inwood makes the observation that 'in the 1990s they could find England's most extreme social and economic contrasts within 5 miles of Parliament Square', and this is true on the whole, for the wealthy and the destitute both tend to flock to the urban scene. London has suffered by not having a central government, the only major city without such government, not that the GLC was effective, but that something needs to be done -- and perhaps the new mayoral initiative will bring some hope. London's 1993 GDP was about 110 billion GBP (180 billion USdollars), bigger than the GDP of Russia - 'a city with the capacity to generate wealth on such a scale does not need to endure overfilled railway carriages, understocked classrooms, decaying social services, underfunded libraries, neglected housing estates or families living in fire-trap bed-and-breakfast accommodation.'
Inwood concludes with an early comment on London: 'The city is delightful indeed, when it has a good governor,' penned by William Fitzstephen in 1173. Of course, today's problems are not unique even to London, as this history demonstrates admirably.
This is a history that is well worth the investment of the time it takes to read.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More History Like This Please., 5 Feb 2003
By 
D. G. ELDON (Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
The most readable history book I have ever read, bar none. This is a masterpiece of research, factually presented in a format that should interest the most avid reader, student and even the casual reader. No frills, no speculation, but pure information. A bit like the Forth Bridge, though...I have to re-read passages to glean information I am sure I missed at the first reading. A daunting first impression at 1100 pages, but do not be put off - it is a book you can take time to read.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, meticulously researched and readable history, 10 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
Don't be put off by the 1100-page length.: this is a supremely well-written, readable history based on hundreds of original sources and presented in bite-sized chunks each of which can be read and digested in 10 minutes. The most relaxing way I can think of to absorb complex, interesting ideas.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect, 28 Feb 2002
This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
This book is comprehensive history so well written that it's always pure pleasure to read. It tells how London came to be the way it is physically, socially, politically and economically. It also gives a sense of what Londoners' lives were like in most periods. It certainly told me something new about most things that I thought I knew about already. Even if you already knew the significance of the fact the the mouths of the Thames and the Scheldt are opposite each other, and that the last battleship built in London was launched in 1912, for example, you're sure to learn a lot from this book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read!, 27 July 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
I bought the hardcover edition of this book a few years back, read half of it and gave up due to a busy schedule. Since the recent London bombings, I re-read the ENTIRE book again (despite a heavier workload and a busier schedule) and I only have one word to say about this book: EXCELLENT! It is so thorough and detailed in the historical, social, economical, demographical and cultural description of London! I had lived in London in the 90s and even though I am from Singapore, my sense of respect, appreciation and admiration that I have for the people of London has never waned. This book sheds light about the 'never-say-die' spirit of Londoners; afterall, if they had gone through the Great Plague, the Great Fire of 1666 and 2 World Wars and have emerged stronger and more united after each disaster; nothing will kill this special and unique spirit of London and Londoners! God bless London and may this fabulous book enlighten those who wish to learn more about this great city and its wonderful people.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read for someone interested in London, 20 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
If you have any serious interest in London, read this book. It covers the whole canvas from Roman times to the present day and despite the 1100 odd pages, it is immensely readable. Although I have not lived in London for 20 years, I was born and bred there and maybe this helps ones appreciation, but I found it fascinating. As a Freeman of the City, I was particularly interested in the development of the City through the ages, but the modern era is interesting too. Nothing changes - greed, politics, poverty and snobbery are in every age.
Why 4 crowns not 5? My only criticism is that some more maps to illustrate the text would have been helpful. There are excellent historic maps at the end of the book, but I longed for some 'local' ones to illustrate the discussions in the chapters. Maybe in the next edition??
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still reading.., 3 May 2014
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This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
Very interesting , easy to read ,informative...
Too bad though there are no maps to help visualize places and changes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive, detailed history, 20 May 2013
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This review is from: A History of London (Paperback)
massive coverage of all London areas, a significant body of work, to be ranked with any historical work on the city.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A History of London by Stephen Wood, 21 Jan 2013
By 
Margaret Picard (Townsville, Qld, AU) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of London (Hardcover)
Its perfect for fleshing out the lives of William Pickard and Sarah Swatridge and their descendants living in London 1770-1911.
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A History of London
A History of London by Stephen Inwood (Paperback - 21 Aug 1998)
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