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This review is from: Underground London: Travels Beneath the City Streets (Paperback)
I noticed from other reviews that this book by Stephen Smith has been rated anything from one to five. The clue to the content of this book is in its' subtitle 'TRAVELS BENEATH THE CITY STREETS'. This is more of a collection of anecdotes about the author's quest to gain a better understanding of London by looking under the city streets rather than an attempt to provide comprehensive archeological and historical details of what is under there. Thus, its not a traditional book on history as such. However, there are plenty of interesting facts. For example, I was intrigued to find out that the reason Muswell Hill does not have a tube station is because a plague pit was found during tunnelling.
The book is divided into chronological chapters, from Roman into modern times, with two introductory chapters at the beginning, explaining why the author became interested in this subject and how he commenced his search (the sewers). The over-riding theme is to show how much London is a city literally built on history, and how the old intertwines with the new. For example Smith descibes a Roman wall that has been integrated into a car park, and a door located under a subway in Merton, leading to the ruins of an abbey.
Smith's dry sense of humour permeates the book throughout, and several times I found myself chortling out loud. The chapter on Saxon London was somewhat weak, but overall I found it entertaining enough to keep turning the pages, and there was enough information to increase my understanding and knowledge of London. However, those who prefer a more traditional approach to history may not get so much out of it.