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This article is about the city in Great Britain. For other uses, see London (disambiguation).


Top: City of London skyline, Middle: Houses of Parliament, Bottom left: Tower Bridge, Bottom right: Tower of London.

London region shown within the United Kingdom.

Coordinates: 51°3028N 00°0741W / 51.50778°N 0.12806°W / 51.50778; -0.12806Coordinates: 51°3028N 00°0741W / 51.50778°N 0.12806°W / 51.50778; -0.12806

Sovereign state

United Kingdom

Constituent country





City and 32 boroughs

Settled by Romans

as Londinium c. AD 50


- Regional authority

Greater London Authority

- Regional assembly

London Assembly

- Mayor of London

Boris Johnson

- Headquarters

City Hall

- UK Parliament

- London Assembly

- European Parliament

74 constituencies

14 constituencies

London constituency


- London

659 sq mi (1,706.8 km2)

Elevation [1]

79 ft (24 m)

Population (July 2007 est.)[2][3][4]

- London


- Density

12,331/sq mi (4,761/km2)

- Urban


- Metro

12,300,000 to 13,945,000

- Demonym


- Ethnicity

(2001 Estimates)[5]

Ethnic groups[show]

63% White

58% White British

3% White Irish

8.9% White Other

5% Mixed

1% Black Caribbean & White

0.5% Black African & White

1% South Asian & White

1% Other & White

15% South Asian

6.5% Indian

2.3% Pakistani

2.3% Bangladeshi

2% Other South Asian

13% Black

5.5% Black African

4.3% Black Caribbean

0.8% Other Black

4% East Asian or Other

1.5% Chinese

1.9% Other

Time zone


- Summer (DST)


Post code



London (pronounced /ˈlʌndən/) is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. It has been an influential city for two millennia and its history goes back to its founding by the Romans.[6] The city's core, the ancient City of London, still retains its limited medieval boundaries. However, since at least the nineteenth century, the name "London" has also referred to the whole metropolis that has developed around it.[7] Today the bulk of this conurbation forms the London metropolitan region[8] and the Greater London administrative area,[9] with its own elected mayor and assembly.[10]

London is one of the world's foremost global cities alongside New York City[11][12][13][14][15] and one of the largest financial centres alongside New York City and Tokyo.[16][17][18] Central London is home to the headquarters of more than half of the UK's top 100 listed companies (the FTSE 100) and more than 100 of Europe's 500 largest. The city's influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, the arts and culture in general contributes to its global position. It is a major tourist destination for both domestic and overseas visitors. London hosted the 1908 and 1948 Summer Olympics and will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; the historic settlement of Greenwich; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church.[19]

London has a wide range of peoples, cultures, and religions, and more than 300 languages are spoken within the city.[20] In July 2007, it had an official population of 7,556,900 within the boundaries of Greater London[21] making it the most populous municipality in the European Union.[22] The Greater London Urban Area (the second largest in the EU) has a population of 8,278,251.[2] while the metropolitan area (the largest in the EU) has an estimated total population of between 12 million[3] and 14 million.[4] The public transport network, administered by Transport for London, is the most extensive in the world,[23] London Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest airport by number of international passengers[24] and the airspace is the busiest of any city in the world.[25] London was named by New York Magazine as the capital of the world for the 21st century.[26]



[edit] History

Main articles: History of London and Etymology of London

See also: Fortifications of London

Medal of Constantius I capturing London (inscribed on the reverse as "LON") in 296 after defeating Allectus. Beaurains hoard.

The etymology of London remains a mystery. The earliest etymological explanation can be attributed to Geoffrey of Monmouth in Historia Regum Britanniae. The name is described as originating from King Lud, who had allegedly taken over the city and named it Kaerlud.[27] This would have had a derivational form Kaerludein, which, by aphaeresis, eventually developed as London. Many other theories have been advanced over the centuries, most of them deriving the name from Welsh or British, and occasionally from Anglo-Saxon. It is also believed the name "London" comes from the celtic word "Lyndon," which means "shadowy waters," referring to the Thames River.

Although there is evidence of scattered Brythonic settlements in the area, the first major settlement was founded by the Romans in 43 AD as Londinium, following the Roman conquest of Britain.[28] This Londinium lasted for just seventeen years. Around 61, the Iceni tribe led by Queen Boudica stormed this first London, burning it to the ground.[29] The next, heavily planned incarnation of the city prospered and superseded Colchester as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia in 100. At its height in the 2nd century, Roman London had a population of around 60,000.

By the 600s, the Anglo-Saxons had created a new settlement called Lundenwic approximately 1,000 yards (910 m) upstream from the old Roman city, around what is now Covent Garden.[30] It is likely that there was a harbour at the mouth of the River Fleet for fishing and trading, and this trading grew until the city was overcome by the Vikings and forced to relocate the city back to the location of the Roman Londinium to use its walls for protection.[31] Viking attacks continued to increase around the rest of South East England, until 886 when Alfred the Great recaptured London and made peace with the Danish leader, Guthrum.[32] The original Saxon city of Lundenwic became Ealdwic ("old city"), a name surviving to the present day as Aldwych, which is in the modern City of Westminster.

Map of London in 1300, showing the medieval boundaries of the City of London

In a retaliatory attack, Ethelred's army achieved victory by pulling down London Bridge with the Danish garrison on top, and English control was re-established. Canute took control of the English throne in 1016, controlling the city and country until 1035, when his death resulted in a reversion to Saxon control under his pious stepson Edward the Confessor, who re-founded Westminster Abbey and the adjacent Palace of Westminster.[33] By this time, London had become the largest and most prosperous city in England, although the official seat of government was still at Winchester.

Following a victory at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror, the then Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England in the newly finished Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.[34] William granted the citizens of London special privileges, while building what is now known as the Tower of London, in the south-east corner of the city, to keep them under control.[35]

The Great Exhibition

In 1097, William II began the building of Westminster Hall, close by the abbey of the same name. The hall became the basis of a new Palace of Westminster, the prime royal residence throughout the Middle Ages.[36][37] Westminster became the seat of the royal court and government (persisting until the present day), while its distinct neighbour, the City of London, was a centre of trade and commerce and flourished under its own unique administration, the Corporation of London. London grew in wealth and population during the Middle Ages. In 1100 its population was around 18,000; by 1300 it had grown to nearly 100,000.[38] King Edward I issued an edict in 1290, expelling all Jews from England.[39] Before the edict, there was an increasing population of Jews, whereas after this time, the population of Jews began to drop considerably.[39] Disaster struck during the Black Death in the mid-14th century, when London lost nearly a third of its population. Apart from the invasion of London during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381,[40] London remained relatively untouched by the various civil wars during the Middle Ages, such as the first and second Barons' Wars and the Wars of the Roses.[41]

After the successful defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, political stability in England allowed London to grow further. In 1603, James VI of Scotland came to the throne of England, essentially uniting the two countries. His enactment of harsh anti-Catholic laws made him unpopular, and an assassination attempt was made on 5 November 1605—the well-known Gunpowder Plot.[42]

The Great Fire of London destroyed many parts of the city in 1666

Plague caused extensive problems for London in the early 17th century,[43] culminating in the Great Plague in 1665–1666 that killed 70,000 to 100,000 people, up to a fifth of London's population.[44] This was the last major outbreak in England, possibly thanks to the disastrous fire of 1666.[45] The Great Fire of London broke out in the original City and quickly swept through London's wooden buildings, destroying large swathes of the city.[45] A first hand narrative of both plague and fire was provided by Sir Samuel Pepys.[45] Rebuilding took over ten years, largely under direction of a Commission appointed by King Charles II, chaired by Sir Christopher Wren,[46][47][48] and supervised by Robert Hooke as newly appointed Surveyor of London.[49]

In the 18th century, Samuel Johnson, author of A Dictionary of the English Language, famously wrote about the city: “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." [50]

A London street hit during the Blitz of World War II

Following London's growth in the 18th century, it became the world's largest city from about 1831 to 1925.[51] Rising traffic congestion on city centre roads led to the creation of the world's first rapid transit. The Metropolitan Board of Works oversaw infrastructure expansion. It was then replaced by the County of London, overseen by the London County Council, London's first elected city-wide administration.

The Blitz and other bombing by the German Luftwaffe during World War II killed over 30,000 Londoners and destroyed large tracts of housing and other buildings across London. In 1965 London's political boundaries were expanded to take into account the growth of the urban area.[52]

[edit] Governance

See also: List of heads of London government

City Hall at night, home of the Greater London Authority

[edit] Local government

Main articles: Local government in London and History of local government in London

The administration of London is formed of two tiers — a city-wide, strategic tier and a local tier. City-wide administration is coordinated by the Greater London Authority (GLA), while local administration is carried out by 33 smaller authorities.[53] The GLA consists of two elected parts; the Mayor of London, who has executive powers, and the London Assembly, who scrutinise the Mayor's decisions and can accept or reject his budget proposals each year. The GLA was set up in 2000 to replace the similar Greater London Council (GLC) which had been abolished in 1986.[54] The headquarters of the GLA and the Mayor of London is at City Hall; the current Mayor is Boris Johnson. The 33 local authorities are the councils of the 32 London boroughs and the City of London Corporation.[55] They are responsible for local services not overseen by the GLA, such as local planning, schools, social services, local roads and refuse collection.

[edit] National government

London is an important city because the Government of the United Kingdom is located around the Palace of Westminster. Many government departments are located close to Parliament, particularly along Whitehall, including the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street.[56] The British Parliament is often referred to as the "Mother of Parliaments" (although this sobriquet was first applied to England itself by John Bright)[57] because it has been the model for most other parliamentary systems, and its Acts have created many other parliaments.

[edit] Geography

Main article: Geography of London

[edit] Scope

West and central London seen from SPOT satellite

London can be geographically defined in a number of ways; the situation was once open to periodic legal debate.[58] At London's core is the small, ancient City of London which is commonly known as 'the City' or 'the Square Mile'.[59] London's metropolitan area grew considerably during the Victorian era and again during the Interwar period, but expansion halted in the 1940s because of World War II and Green Belt legislation, and the area has been largely static since.[60] The London region of England, also commonly known as Greater London, is the area administered by the Greater London Authority.[8] The urban sprawl of the conurbation — or Greater London Urban Area — covers a roughly similar area, with a slightly larger population. Beyond this is the vast London commuter belt.[61]

Map of Central London

Forty percent of Greater London is covered by the London postal district, within which 'LONDON' forms part of the postal address.[62] The London telephone area code covers a larger area, similar in size to Greater London, although some outer districts are omitted and some places just outside are included. The area within the orbital M25 motorway is sometimes used to define the "London area"[63] and the Greater London boundary has been aligned to it in places.[64] Greater London is split for some purposes into Inner London and Outer London.[65] Informally, the city is split into North, South, East, West and often also Central London.

The Metropolitan Police District, city-wide local government area and London transport area have varied over time, but broadly coincide with the Greater London boundary.[66] The Romans may have marked the centre of Londinium with the London Stone, still visible on Cannon Street.[67] The coordinates of the nominal centre of London (traditionally considered to be the original Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross, near the junction of Trafalgar Square and Whitehall) are approximately 51°3029N 00°0729W / 51.50806°N 0.12472°W / 51.50806; -0.12472. Trafalgar Square has also become a point for celebrations and protests.[68]

[edit] Status

City of London

Within London, both the City of London and the City of Westminster have City status and both the City of London and the remainder of Greater London are the ceremonial counties.[69] The current area of Greater London was historically part of the counties of Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire.[70] Unlike most capital cities, London's status as the capital of the UK has never been granted or confirmed officially — by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the UK's unwritten constitution. The capital of England was moved to London from Winchester as the Palace of Westminster developed in the 12th and 13th centuries to become the permanent location of the royal court, and thus the political capital of the nation.[71] According to the Collins English Dictionary definition[72] of 'the seat of government,' London is not the capital of England, as England does not have its own government. However according to the Oxford English Reference dictionary definition[73] of 'the most important town...' and many other authorities,[74] London is the capital of England.

[edit] Topography

Greater London covers an area of 607 square miles (1,570 km2).[75] Its primary geographical feature is the Thames, a navigable river which crosses the city from the south-west to the east. The Thames Valley is a floodplain surrounded by gently rolling hills including Parliament Hill, Addington Hills, and Primrose Hill. The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river with extensive marshlands; at high tide, its shores reached five times their present width.[76] Since the Victorian era it has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground. The Thames is a tidal river, and London is vulnerable to flooding.[77] The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level by the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound.[78] In 1974, a decade of work began on the construction of the Thames Barrier across the Thames at Woolwich to deal with this threat. While the barrier is expected to function as designed until roughly 2030, concepts for its future enlargement or redesign are already being discussed.[79]

[edit] Climate

Main article: Climate of the United Kingdom

London has a temperate marine climate (Koppen climate classification Cfb), like much of the British Isles, so the city rarely sees extremely high or low temperatures. Summers are warm with average high temperatures of 21 °C (70 °F) - 24 °C (75 °F) and lows of 11 °C (52 °F) - 14 °C (57 °F). But temperatures can exceed 25 °C (77 °F) on many days, and in almost every year they exceed 30 °C (86 °F) on some days. The highest temperature ever recorded was 39 °C (102 °F) [80] on 10th August 2003. Winters in London are chilly, but rarely below freezing with daytime highs around 8 °C (46 °F) - 12 °C (54 °F), while spring has mild days and cool evenings.[80] The lowest ever recorded temperature is 10 °C (14.0 °F).Template:Citation/date needed Autumn is usually mild but often unsettled as colder air from the north and warmer air from the south meet, occasionally deep depressions form like the Great Storm of 1987.

London is a relatively dry city with regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year, with average precipitation of 583.6 millimetres (22.98 in) every year. Snow is relatively uncommon, particularly because heat from the urban area can make London up to 5 °C (9 °F) warmer than the surrounding areas in winter. Some snowfall, however, is usually seen up to a few times a year. The snowfall of February 2009 was the heaviest London had seen for 18 years. London is in USDA Hardiness zone 9, and AHS Heat Zone 2.[81]

In the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, London was noted for its dense fogs and smogs. Following the deadly Great Smog of 1952, the Clean Air Act 1956 was passed, leading to the decline of such severe pollution in the capital.[82]

[hide] Weather averages for London















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Record low °C (°F)



























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Avg. precipitation days














Source: World Weather Information Service[83] 2009-02-04

[edit] Districts

See also: List of places in London, Central London, Inner London, and Outer London

London's vast urban area is often described using a set of district names (e.g. Bloomsbury, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Whitechapel, Fitzrovia). These are either informal designations, or reflect the names of superseded villages, parishes and city wards. Such names have remained in use through tradition, each referring to a local area with its own distinctive character, but often with no modern official boundaries. However, since 1965 Greater London has been divided into 32 London boroughs in addition to the ancient City of London.[84][85]

The City of London is one of the world's three largest financial centres (alongside New York and Tokyo) with a dominant role in several international financial markets, including cross-border bank lending, international bond issuance and trading, foreign-exchange trading,[86] over-the-counter derivatives, fund management and foreign equities trading.[87] It also has the world's largest insurance market, the leading exchange for dealing in non-precious metals, the largest spot gold and gold lending markets, the largest ship broking market, and more foreign banks and investment houses than any other centre.[87] The City has its own governance and boundaries, giving it a status as the only completely autonomous local authority in London.[88] London's new financial and commercial hub is the Docklands area to the east of the City, dominated by the Canary Wharf complex. Other businesses locate in the City of Westminster, the home of the UK's national government and the well-known Westminster Abbey.

The West End is London's main entertainment and shopping district, with locations such as Oxford Street, Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus acting as tourist magnets.[89] The West London area is known for fashionable and expensive residential areas such as Notting Hill, Knightsbridge and Chelsea — where properties can sell for tens of millions of pounds.[90] The average price for all properties in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is £894,000 with similar average outlay in most of Central London.[91]

The eastern region of London contains the East End and East London. The East End is the area closest to the original Port of London, known for its high immigrant population, as well as for being one of the poorest areas in London.[92] The surrounding East London area saw much of London's early industrial development; now, brownfield sites throughout the area are being redeveloped as part of the Thames Gateway including the London Riverside and Lower Lea Valley, which is being developed into the Olympic Park for the 2012 Olympics.[92]

1. City of London

2. City of Westminster

3. Kensington and Chelsea

4. Hammersmith and Fulham

5. Wandsworth

6. Lambeth

7. Southwark

8. Tower Hamlets

9. Hackney

10. Islington

11. Camden

12. Brent

13. Ealing

14. Hounslow

15. Richmond

16. Kingston

17. Merton

18. Sutton

19. Croydon

20. Bromley

21. Lewisham

22. Greenwich

23. Bexley

24. Havering

25. Barking and Dagenham

26. Redbridge

27. Newham

28. Waltham Forest

29. Haringey

30. Enfield

31. Barnet

32. Harrow

33. Hillingdon


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