London: Biography of a City


Join Active Minds as we tell the story of one of the world’s greatest cities. From the Romans to the Anglo-Saxons, the Norman Conquest, and more, we will tell the story of London right up to the present day. Along the way, we’ll visit some of London’s most colorful characters and notable places, including the Tower of London, where Elizabeth I was held before becoming queen. Come float with us down the river Thames for a front row seat. It’s the next best thing to being there!

Key Lecture Points

  • London has been a trading and commercial center since its founding as a Roman outpost in 50 CE to the present day. In the Middle Ages wool gave England a product that was highly prized on the continent by the European cloth makers. By the 15th century London was the English exporting center for raw wool and finished cloth, setting the stage for London’s economic future. Eventually, London became the hub of English industrialization with mechanization of the textile industries. Industrialization in turn provided the economic engine to expand its overseas trade and the British Empire.
  • London, in the Elizabethan Age, saw the formation of the English literary language and its enduring global legacy as epitomized by Shakespeare. It was also the hub for the enterprises that made possible the British Imperial colonization of territories in the New World, Asia and Africa.
  • The Victorian Age (1820-1900) was the zenith of the British Empire. In London this was the time of Charles Dickens, the Great Exhibition that showcased the latest technological wonders and the building of the world’s first underground transit system.

Exploration Questions

  • How did trade and commerce affect the historical development of London and the British Empire?
  • How did the thriving commerce and trade of London influence the growth of literature and the arts in the city?

Reflective Questions

  • Have you ever visited London? What is your favorite attraction in London? Why?
  • Who are the historical figures in British history you find most interesting? Why?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Tomalin, Claire. Charles Dickens: A Life. Penguin Press, 2011. 576 pages. Biography of Charles Dickens.
    Click here to order
  • Mortimer, John. Forever Rumpole: The Best of the Rumpole Stories. Viking Adult, 2011. 528 pages. Short stories about the cantankerous London barrister.
    Click here to order
  • Taylor, Craig. Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now—As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It. Ecco Press, 2012. 448 pages. Oral portrait of Londoners in the style of Studs Terkel.
    Click here to order