There is no city in the world that evokes the spirit and imagination, as does London. It is not just among those of European ancestry who feel the “magic” of London. People from all over the world are drawn to this great city and find it to be one of the most fascinating and ultimately beloved of the world’s major cities. No longer the capital of the largest empire on earth, and no longer the world’s biggest city, London still captivates and holds visitors under its spell. This traveler’s companion is written to introduce you to the impressive city of London in all of its complexities, and to help you gain an appreciation for the scope and excitement of this very special city.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome lost its prominence among the cities of the ancient world. Not only was Rome the capital of the greatest empire to have developed in the ancient world, but it was also the first city to have reached a population of over 1,000,000 residents. Throughout Europe’s dark ages, no other city had even come close in population growth. Likewise no Asian city had expanded to encompass 1,000,000 inhabitants. It was not until the Industrial Revolution, which began in the late 18th century, that urban development took on the magnitude once seen in ancient Rome. And it was London that came to prominence as the world’s largest city by the start of the 19th century. And London remained the world’s largest city until after World War II when that title was captured by New York City. Today neither London nor New York City ranks anywhere near the world’s largest. The great cities of Asia and Latin America have far exceeded European or Anglo American urban centers as the preeminent population centers of the world. London does not even rank as the largest city in Europe any longer. It presently shares that title with Moscow, and it is believed by many that Moscow is actually larger in overall population than metropolitan London.
Despite having lost its status as the world’s largest city, London still holds a very special place in the hearts of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Its influence has been vastly more significant than any other city on the planet because of the power of the former British Empire. So many world cities contain architecture, street names, parks and other features that are copied after London. Once the British flag flew over portions of every continent on earth. It was said during the mid 19th century that the sun never set upon the flag of the United Kingdom. Whether it was Africa, Australia, India or the Caribbean Islands, people emulated the ways of London. And thus names such as Trafalgar Square, Kings Cross, Hyde Park or High Street are today found scattered across the globe. There are countries on every continent where traffic moves on the left side of the street and where the nomenclature is very English, all the result of the powerful cultural influences of the former British Empire. And of course the capital and largest city of that great empire was London. So in the hearts and minds of many people, London still represents the epitome of everything urban. And even in countries that were not ruled over by the British, there has been a tendency to look to London for answers to cultural development, thus making London a very sought after city.
Finally it must be said that London’s deeply rooted history is so expressed in the city’s many palaces, public buildings, cathedrals and museums as to make it one of the most popular places for travelers. Seeing London is high on the list of most of those who travel away from their home country. And as a result, London is one of the world’s most visited cities, if not the most visited.
So it is hoped that this companion will give you a good introduction to the importance of London, a city that this author likes to call the “Cultural Heart of the World.”
If you like this introduction, my entire book plus many other traveler’s companion books are all available here.
I would also invite you to join me in 2015 and 2016 during the summer months, as I will be cruising the Baltic Sea with Silversea Cruises.
For more information about joining Dr. Lew Deitch on one of these cruises, contact us.
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