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History of London

London since 1900

A German bomber flies over the Surrey Docks, 1940A German bomber flies over the Surrey Docks, 1940By the beginning of the 20th century, 6.5 million people—one fifth of the entire British population—lived in London. In the early 1900s, city planners began to transform some parts of the inner city (residential areas close to the City and Westminster), clearing slums and replacing narrow streets with wide roads such as Kingsway and Aldwych. The Mall, leading from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was turned into a ceremonial route for grand royal parades. The East End, however, remained largely undeveloped. Many of London's poor were forced to live in overcrowded housing—damp, dilapidated, lacking electricity and running water—near to the factories and docks where they worked.

Railway stations at Charing Cross in 1914Railway stations at Charing Cross in 1914

A poster about the new suburb of Golders GreenA poster about the new suburb of Golders Green


During World War I (1914–18), London’s docks and East End were bombed by German zeppelins (airships) and, later, aeroplanes. After the war was over, the government attempted to solve London's housing shortage, building three million new homes between 1918 and 1939. As the Underground (tube) network expanded—along with electrified railways and new routes for trams and buses—the suburbs, neighbourhoods that offered London's growing middle classes better-quality, affordable housing and surroundings more suitable for bringing up families, ballooned in size. The smarter parts of suburbia, as it is sometimes called, grew up north and northwest of London ("Metroland") and around its southern fringes. Existing towns and villages in surrounding counties were absorbed into London's urban area. Manufacturing industries also relocated from inner London to industrial estates, such as Park Royal, lining the main roads leading out from the centre.

London has 31 skyscrapers (defined as buildings with over 40 floors and taller than approximately 150 m  or 492 ft), more than any other European city. Next is Paris with 21 and Frankfurt with 15.

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