Sunday, August 21, 2005

London, one of my favorite places!

London (see also different names) is the capital city of the United Kingdom and of England. It produces 17% of the UK's GDP and the City of London is one of the world's major financial centres. The capital of the former global empire, London is a leader in culture, communications, politics, finance, and the arts and has considerable influence worldwide. New York City, Tokyo and Paris are often listed with London as the four major global cities.
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The estimated population of Greater London on 1 January 2005 was 7,421,228, and the population includes several million more in the wider metropolitan area, making London the largest city in the UK, and one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe (along with Moscow and Paris). London's population includes a very diverse range of peoples, cultures, and religions, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe, and the world.
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London is the home of many global institutions, organizations and companies, and as such retains a leading role in global affairs. It has a great number of important buildings, including world-famous museums, theatres, concert halls, airports, railway stations, palaces, and offices. It is also the location of many foreign embassies, consulates and High Commissions.
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Today, "London" usually refers to the conurbation known as Greater London, which is divided into thirty-two London Boroughs, and the City of London. Historically, "London" referred to the square mile of the City of London at the conurbation's heart, from which the city grew. Between 1889 and 1965 it referred to the former County of London which covered the area now known as Inner London.
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There are other definitions of "London" for special purposes, such as the London postal district; the area covered by the telephone area code 020; the area accessible by public transport using a Transport for London Travelcard; the area delimited by the M25 orbital motorway; the Metropolitan Police district; and the London commuter belt.
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The coordinates of the centre of London (traditionally considered to be Charing Cross, near the junction of Trafalgar Square, the Strand, Whitehall and the Mall) are approximately 51�30′ N 0�8′ W. The Romans marked the centre of Londinium with the London Stone in the City.
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Greater London covers an area of 609 square miles (1,579 km�). London is a port on the Thames, a navigable river. The river has had a major influence on the development of the city. London was founded on the north bank of the Thames and there was only a single bridge, London Bridge, for many centuries. As a result, the main focus of the city was on the north side of the Thames. When more bridges were built in the 18th century, the city expanded in all directions as the mostly flat or gently rolling countryside around the Thames floodplain presented no obstacle to growth. There are some hills in London, examples being Parliament Hill and Primrose Hill, but these provided fine prospects of the city centre without significantly affecting the directions of the spread of the city and London is therefore roughly circular.
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The Thames was once a much broader, shallower river than it is today. 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. The threat has increased over time due to a slow but continuous rise in high water level and the slow 'tilting' of Britain (up in the north and down in the south) caused by post-glacial rebound. The Thames Barrier was constructed across the Thames at Woolwich in the 1970s to deal with this threat, but in early 2005 it was suggested that a ten-mile-long barrier further downstream might be required to deal with the flood risk in the future.
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London has a temperate climate, with warm but seldom hot summers, cool but rarely severe winters, and regular but generally light precipitation throughout the year. Summer temperatures rarely rise much above 33�C (91.4�F), though higher temperatures have become more common recently. The highest temperature ever recorded in London was 37.9�C (100.2�F), measured at Heathrow Airport during the European heatwave of 2003. Heavy snowfalls are almost unknown. In recent winters, snow has generally only settled once or twice and it is rarely more than an inch (25 mm). London's average annual precipitation of less than 24 inches (600 mm) is lower than that of Rome or Sydney. London's large built up area creates a microclimate, with heat stored by the city's buildings: sometimes temperatures are 5�C (9�F) warmer in the city than in the surrounding areas.
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The name London comes from the Latin name Londinium, as London was founded by the Romans during their reign over the island� although there is some slight evidence of pre-Roman settlement. (The BBC History website, however, claims that the name Londinium is actually "Celtic, not Latin, and may originally have referred to a previous farmstead on the site;" this also implies that there indeed were pre-Roman settlements in the area.) This fortified Roman settlement was the capital of the province of Britannia.
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Around 61 A.D. the Iceni tribe of Celts lead by Queen Boudicca stormed London and took the city from the Romans. The Celts burnt the relatively new Roman town to the ground, and archaelogical digs have revealed a layer of red ash beneath the City of London which is believed to be the burnt remains of the old Roman town.
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After the fall of the Roman Empire, Londinium was abandoned and a Saxon town named Lundenwic was established approximately one mile to the west in what is now Aldwych, in the 7th century. The old Roman city was then re-occupied during the late 9th or early 10th century.
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Westminster was once a distinct town, and has been the seat of the English royal court and government since the medi�val era. Eventually, Westminster and London grew together and formed the basis of London, becoming England's largest � though not capital � city (Winchester was the capital city of England until the 12th century).
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London has grown steadily over centuries, surrounding and making suburbs of neighbouring villages and towns, farmland, countryside, meadows and woodlands, spreading in every direction. From the 16th to the early 20th centuries, London flourished as the capital of the British Empire.
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In 1666, the Great Fire of London swept through and destroyed a large part of the City of London. Re-building took over 10 years, but London's growth accelerated in the 18th century and by the early 19th century it was the largest city in the world.
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