London is the largest city in England and the capital of the United Kingdom. Although it is not known to feature in the history of Nicholas de Brabant until the seventeenth century (before which time his travels appear to have been limited to continental Europe), he has since visited the city on a number of occasions.
The first time that Nick is recorded to have crossed the Channel, he is travelling without his vampire family, staying with a mortal friend who is a farmer. In 1666, however, he and LaCroix are in London at the time of the Great Plague. LaCroix, at least, has clearly been there before, for he deplores the fact that playhouses have been closed because of the threat of disease.
During their stay in London, Nick is intrigued by a young doctor, Gerald Archer, one of the few trying to treat the ill. He offers him immunity; and Archer seizes the opportunity to help more of the sick. Once brought across, though, his priorities shift: he starts to prey on his own patients. Their high death rate becomes obvious enough to rouse the suspicions of a local preacher, who confronts him. Archer rashly exposes his true nature, and is killed. Nick and LaCroix circumspectly decide to leave the city. For the rest of the seventeenth century, they are recorded in English climes; and no doubt London is one of the places they stayed. However, the exact location of their adventures is not given.
Through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Nick travelled widely—not only in Europe, but also in North America. However, although he is known to have been in the British Isles on more than one occasion, he is not certainly placed in London until 1888. At that time, he is somewhat estranged from LaCroix and Janette, but all three appear nevertheless to be more or less together. Nick has, however, decided to eschew killing, a moral decision not shared by the others. When LaCroix attacks a victim whose blood poisons him, Janette has no difficulty in locating Nick and asking for his help: it is critical that the victim's death be certain, lest he accidentally come across. Yet Nick refuses to ensure this. As a result, Jack the Ripper is turned into a vampire.
After that, Nick once again travels widely, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of his vampire family. All three are in London during World War II, at least during the period known as the Blitz. At that time, Nick and LaCroix are either in the British army, or at least feigning to be as a cover for their actual activities. One night, a young boy living on the streets attempts to rob Janette. Rather than allow the men to punish him, she takes a fancy to befriend the boy. All three become fond of him, and LaCroix decides to bring him across. Nick attempts to warn him to flee; but the boy fails to do so. His fate as a vampire is unknown; but Nick seems subsequently to have travelled apart from the others, though their paths frequently crossed.
Nick may well have visited London on other occasions; but they are not recorded in canon.
History of LondonEdit
During prehistoric times, London was most likely a rural area with scattered settlement. Rich archæological finds suggest the area was important; but there was no city in the area until Londinium was founded by the Romans in 43 A.D. Although burnt in 61 A.D. during the revolt of the Iceni tribe, led by Queen Boudica, Londinium was rebuilt. By the second century A.D., it had so prospered that it became the capital of the Roman province of Britannia, with a population of around 60,000. At some time between 190 A.D. and 225 A.D., the Romans built a defensive wall (about two miles long and twenty feet high) around the landward side of the city. A further wall along the river was erected in the fourth century for protection against Saxon pirates. These walls would survive for 1600 years, and define the boundaries of the city for centuries.
Anglo-Saxon PeriodEditIn 410 A.D., the Roman occupation of Britain came to an end. Following this, the Roman city of Londinium went into rapid decline. By the end of the century, it was practically abandoned. However, the area's strategic location on the River Thames meant that the site was not deserted for long: the Saxons moved in. Their initial settlement—known as Lundenwic ("London Town")—avoided the old ruins. Instead, they shifted about a half a mile upstream from the old Roman city, perhaps because there was a harbour at the mouth of the River Fleet for fishing and trading. In the ninth century, though, the citizens were forced to relocate within the old Roman walls for protection from Viking attacks. The new town became known as Lundenburgh ("London Borough"). In England in the Middle Ages, boroughs were settlements that were granted some self-government. King Alfred established two boroughs to defend the bridge across the River Thames. (The Borough of Southwark was at the southern end of the bridge.) From this point, the City of London began to develop its own unique local government.
Norman PeriodEditBy the eleventh century, London had become the largest and most prosperous city in England, although the official seat of government was at Winchester. Its population at that time was around 18,000. After the death of King Edward the Confessor, the Royal Council met in London to elect the dead king's brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson, as their new ruler; and he was crowned in Westminster Abbey. However, Duke William of Normandy, who also claimed the throne, invaded the country. Following his victory at the Battle of Hastings, he was recognized as king by the city officials, and crowned King of England in the newly finished Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1066. In return, King William I granted the city a formal charter and special privileges. Within England, London retained a special status throughout the Middle Ages, with its own unique administration, the Corporation of London. Nevertheless, William I took the precaution of building a stronghold (now known as the Tower of London) to keep the city under control.
In 1097, William II began Westminster Hall, which became the basis of a new Palace of Westminster, the principal royal residence throughout the Middle Ages. The City of Westminster became the seat of the royal court and government, while its close (but distinct) neighbour, the City of London, remained a major centre of trade and commerce. During that time, its population grew to nearly 100,000.
Medieval London was made up of narrow and twisting streets, and most of the buildings were made from combustible materials such as wood and straw, which made fire a constant threat. Sanitation was poor. London lost between a third and half of its population during the Black Death in 1348. Indeed, in the period up to the Great Plague of 1665, there were sixteen outbreaks of plague in the city. On the other hand, apart from the invasion during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, London remained relatively untouched by the various civil wars of the Middle Ages.
The Reformation produced little bloodshed in London, with a gradual shift to Protestantism. However, before the Reformation, more than half of the area of London was occupied by monasteries, nunneries and other religious houses, housing about a third of the inhabitants. The dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII had a profound effect on the city as nearly all of this property changed hands.
This was a great period of mercantilism; and monopoly trading companies such as the Russia Company and the British East India Company were established in London by Royal Charter. Considerable immigration to the city, much of it from the continent, increased the population from an estimated 50,000 in 1530 to about 225,000 in 1605. London rapidly rose in importance amongst the commercial centres of Europe. Nevertheless, Tudor London remained relatively compact. It was only in the seventeenth century that the city began to expand significantly beyond its old medieval boundaries.
Plague and FireEdit
The last major outbreak of plague in Britain occurred in 1665 and 1666. In London, it killed around 60,000 people, which was one fifth of the population. It was immediately followed by another catastrophe. On Sunday, 2 September 1666, the Great Fire of London broke out at one o'clock in the morning at a house in Pudding Lane in the southern part of the City. Fanned by an eastern wind, the fire spread; and efforts to arrest it proved in vain until Thursday. The fire destroyed about sixty percent of the City, including the medieval St. Paul's Cathedral. Although ambitious plans were suggested for a new city, it was actually rebuilt following the old street plan. However, there were changes: many aristocrats moved their residences to the new "West End" in the City of Westminster; and there was a move from wooden buildings to stone and brick construction to reduce the risk of fire.
The eighteenth century was a period of rapid growth for London, reflecting an increasing national population, the early stirrings of the Industrial Revolution, and London's role at the centre of the evolving British Empire. New districts were built for the rich in the West End; new bridges over the Thames encouraged an acceleration of development in South London; and, in the East End, the Port of London expanded downstream from the City. In the Victorian period, London grew to be the world's largest city and capital of the British Empire. Its population expanded from one million in 1800 to over six million by 1900.
However, nineteenth century London was also a city of poverty, where millions lived in overcrowded and unsanitary slums. In 1829, the prime minister, Robert Peel, established the Metropolitan Police (hence the nicknames "bobbies" and "peelers"). A massive project to construct a sewage system of tunnels and pipes under London dramatically reduced the death toll from epidemics of cholera and other diseases. Great rail termini, such as Euston Station, Paddington Station, and Waterloo Station, linked London by railway to every corner of Britain; and a system of underground railways (nicknamed "the Tube") served the city itself.
London entered the twentieth century at the height of its influence as the capital of the largest empire in history. The period between the two World Wars saw London's geographical extent growing more quickly than ever; and the new preference for lower density suburban housing, facilitated by a continuing expansion of the rail network (and then by car ownership), led to the growth of the suburbs into neighbouring counties.
During World War II, London suffered severe damage, being bombed extensively by the Luftwaffe as a part of the Blitz. Civilians took shelter from the air raids in underground stations; but, over the course of the war, over 30,000 were killed. In the immediate postwar years housing was a major issue in London, due to the large number of buildings that had been destroyed in the war.
From the 1950s onwards London became home to a large number of immigrants, largely from Commonwealth countries, which made London one of the most diverse cities in Europe. Starting in the mid-1960s London became a centre for the worldwide youth culture.
Greater London today covers an area of 607 square miles (1,570 km2). Its primary geographical feature is the River Thames. Once a much broader, shallower river with extensive marshlands, the shores of the Thames used to reach five times their present width at high tide. Since the Victorian era it has been extensively embanked, and many of its London tributaries now flow underground (and are part of the sewage system). The Thames Barrier was completed in the 1980s to protect London against tidal surges from the North Sea.