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The history of London spans back to more than 2000 years ago. The city of London in 1920 is a depiction of sophistication, lavish lifestyles, and a vast city of trade for merchant men from different countries. Magnificently standing on the West was the St. Paul’s Cathedral, a standing example of London’s powerful place a Europe’s center for commerce and a true depiction of Baroque Architecture. As at this time in history, London managed to attract immigrants from all walks of life, making London streets busier, bigger and bustling with all sorts of activities. Having recovered from the Great Fire of 1666, the 1720s marked the period of great London merchants and a time for reconstruction, advancement in architecture and the dawn of new forms of lifestyles. The beauty of West End streets and paths was breath taking and symbolized the emergence of powerful and rich London merchants. According to Inwood (2000, p. 13) “by the 1720s, the West End was a playground for those with money to burn, a vast pleasure palace filled with endless diversions: glittering ballrooms, theatres, clubs, and gaming.”
Whereas the financial district remained in the East of London city, businesses in the area are predominantly done in coffee houses and businessmen indulged in the consumption of tea, coffee, and tobacco. The expansion of Britain was directly reflected in the rapid expansion of London as a city of finance and trade. The West End is awash with lavish parties, great banquettes, gilded private coaches, and grand buildings. The South End towards the Sea is an area of increased sea trade activities. Goods and services entered London through England’s big Ships, with the capacity to handle long expeditions.
Gambling depicted the increasingly sophisticated Londoners. Being a city of spectators, merchants, travelers, and businessmen won, lost, and played with their fortunes. It was a jungle of opportunities for those who wished to amass wealth. Carruthers (1966, p. 26) bemoans the predicaments of the East residents when he comments, “For those who failed, London was unforgiving, and they ended up in the impoverished ghettos to the East” The East was a place where everything ugly took place. Poverty and crime were the order of the day. One dominant question is how one society can be as different in the levels of wealth as depicted by London in 1720. The West End rolled out their wealth in the open, while to the East, poverty and destitution were the norms. Disparities continue to be evident especially in the levels of achievements between the rich and the poor.
In 1858, the smell, the looks and the feeling was far different than it was 20 years ago. The coming of the Railway, increased business, commerce, and trade activities placed London at the centre of Europe’s Industrial hub. The noise levels within the streets were at high levels and money is exchanged from all directions of the streets. Along the streets of London, the population is at its not only high levels, but also people from different nationalities and regions of England come into the city by the new train system. Rotten garbage and foul smell comes from all directions. The streets are overcrowded and the stories of rotten corpses floating along the railway lines were commonplace. One of the most amazing project sis the Necropolis One Way train system. The single railway line was constructed purposely for ferrying dead corpses to Brookwood Cemetery, twenty-five miles away in the countryside.
While sophistication, growth, and expansion best fit the description of London by 1858, London was also a city of poverty, where millions lived in overcrowded and unsanitary slums. The railway underground tunnels were beginning to build up, putting more pressure on an already overburdened and crowded London metropolis. The noise in the streets was much higher, trains rumbled past and traders shouted to attract the attention of passersby. A walk to the West revealed a rapidly expanding metropolis with new and modern houses. The growth of Islington, Paddington, Belgravia, Holborn, and Lambeth was a depiction of the London capital’s massive empire.
A walk in the streets of London in 1951 reveals a different City. The once bustling center of commerce and trade, the world's largest city and capital of the British Empire, had succumbed to the toll of the two World Wars. Whereas the mood of optimism and hope is evident from the discussions following the fall of Hitler, the rebuilding of the city is slow. Railway lines and underground tunnels are downtrodden. Despite efforts to take the reconstruction efforts to full gear, the city still bears evident bruises of the war. The fresh paint following refurbishment of the St. Paul’s Cathedral in the aftermath of the separate bombing raids are still visible. However, the just concluded festival of Britain is a symbol of home and future prosperity.
From the streets, the emergence of youth culture is evident by the increasing numbers in youth festivals. The famously Swinging London subculture which made that made Carnaby Street a household name of youth fashion around the world is evident. However, racial tension is still an issue that compounds the diverse city residents. The West End has lost its glamour and look forlorn and lost. The lavish parties and conspicuous spending are no more. The residents of this big city that was once a center of commerce and advancement in the rest of Europe have adopted a quiet simple life. Shopping malls are open and increased trade activities are on the rise, but let there be no misjudgments be made, London has lost its glamour and is struggling to leave behind the memories and trail of destruction left behind by the two World Wars.
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