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.
[London] deserves to be an instant classic. True London addicts will supplement it with the new edition of The London Encyclopedia by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, which Porter rightly calls "truly magnificent," but for those looking for a one-volume social history of the city, Porter's book could hardly be bettered.
Lavishly illustrated and handsomely produced for no more than the price of most basic hardbacks these days, London is a treat for all lovers of London.
In his stunningly successful look at London between the Elizabeths, Roy Porter, a professor of medical history at University College, London, examines his home city not as some stretched-out cadaver but as a form evolving over time: sometimes a cancer, sometimes a monster, a heart, a stripling giant, an unknown disease, a fungus and also always a force, sometimes inorganic, a great tidal sea, a gravitational black hole, an imperial sun...History, not heritage, preoccupies Mr. Porter. His book makes no effort to chronicle the monuments of London building or rank masterpieces of architecture, although it puts coaching taverns and cathedrals into broader contexts...And, most happily, it is not ordinary, late-20th-century urban history, either, for it is acutely, indeed gracefully, written and it transcends the pettiness of scholars jamming facts into theories.
In this big book, London-born Roy Porter presents a social historian's guide to his native city. It is a great piling up of information and contemporary observation from the years that span the two Elizabeths. Porter's aim, which he achieves splendidly, is to show the interaction between the city's people, its economy and the built environment...This truly fine book includes many excellent illustrations.
This is much the best and bravest thing [Porter] has yet written. It is important because it makes the whole sweep of London's unique history comprehensible and accessible in a way that no previous writer has ever managed to accomplish...For cities, like nations, can only be understood in an historical perspective. It is that perspective which this book so brilliantly provides. In more senses than one, it is a capital history.
If you want to know how a great urban area developed, look no further than Roy Porter's exhaustive--but never exhausting--history of London...[An] excellent study.
[A] rich and evocative portrayal of London's teeming life...[A]ny interested historian or educated tourist who wishes to come to London to form a personal opinion should buy Porter's wonderful evocation of this "most possible form of life."
- 448 pages
- 7-3/8 x 9-5/8 inches
- Harvard University Press
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