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Great Britain and Kazakhstan
London put up some resistance to William I in 1066, but he subsequently treated the city well. During his reign the White Tower, the nucleus of the Tower of London, was built just east of the city wall. Under the Normans and Plantagenets (see Great Britain), the city grew commercially and politically and during the reign of Richard I (118999) obtained a form of municipal government from which the modern City Corporation developed. In 1215, King John granted the city the right to elect a mayor annually.
The guilds of the Middle Ages gained control of civic affairs and grew sufficiently strong to restrict trade to freemen of the city. The guilds survive today in 80 livery companies, of which members were once the voters in London's municipal elections. Medieval London saw the foundation of the Inns of Court and the construction of Westminster Abbey. By the 14th cent. London had become the political capital of England. It played no active role in the Wars of the Roses (15th cent.).
In the 16th cent. many monastical buildings were destroyed or converted to other uses by Henry VIII, who founded several grammar schools for the poor. The reign of Elizabeth I brought London to a level of great wealth, power, and influence as the undisputed center of England's Renaissance culture. This was the time of Shakespeare and the beginnings of overseas trading companies such as the Muscovy Company. With the advent (1603) of the Stuarts to the throne, the city became involved in struggles with the crown on behalf of its democratic privileges, culminating in the English Civil War.
In 1665 the great plague took some 75,000 lives. A great fire in Sept., 1666, lasted five days and virtually destroyed the city. Sir Christopher Wren played a large role in rebuilding the city. He designed more than 51 churches, notably the rebuilt Saint Paul's Cathedral. Much of the business as well as literary and political discussion was transacted in coffeehouses, forerunners of the modern club. Until 1750, when Westminster Bridge was opened, London Bridge, first built in the 10th cent., was the only bridge to span the Thames. Since the 18th cent. several other bridges have been constructed.
In the 19th cent. London began a period of extraordinary growth. The area of present-day Greater London had about 1.1 million people in 1801; by 1851 the population had increased to 2.7 million, and by 1901 to 6.6 million. During the Victorian era London acquired tremendous prestige as the capital of the British Empire and as a cultural and intellectual center. Britain's free political institutions and intellectual atmosphere continued to make London a haven for persons unsafe in their own countries. The Italian Giuseppe Mazzini, the Russian Alexander Herzen, and the German Karl Marx were among many politically controversial figures who lived for long periods in London.
Many buildings of central London were completely destroyed or partially damaged in air raids during World War
II. These include the Guildhall (scene of the lord mayor's banquets and other public functions); No. 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister's residence; the Inns of Court; Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament; St. George's Cathedral; and many of the great halls of the ancient livery companies. Today there are numerous blocks of new office buildings and districts of apartment dwellings constructed by the government authorities. The growth of London in the 20th cent. has been extensively planned. One notable feature has been the concept of a Green Belt to save certain areas from intensive urban development.
Birmingham is the city and county district (1991 pop...
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