London: A Brief History - Part 4: Politics, The Industrial Revolution and London’s Railway Age

London: A Brief History - Part 4: Politics, The Industrial Revolution and London’s Railway Age

Image: National Economics Editorial
In 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain came to be as the English and Scottish parliaments came together with the Acts of Union. London at the time was expanding in every direction: in the west towards Mayfair, the east saw an expansion of the Port of London, and bridges across the river allowed London to grow towards the south.

A new phenomenon in London at the time was the coffeehouse where newspapers could be read, as printing presses became common. Fleet Street became synonymous with news.

Eighteenth century London was also rife with crime with the death penalty being using for the vast majority of crimes. Public hangings, in areas such as Marble Arch, were common and big public spectacles.

London went through a radical change in the 1800s. It became the world’s largest city and during the 19th century its population exploded from 1 million to 6.7 million. 
Also during the 19th century, the invention of the steam train and its railways, under Queen Victoria’s reign transformed London, but the building of new railways meant the demolition of many buildings. Most areas affected by the demolition were poor areas due to the easy approval by government authorities.

London’s maiden railway line was commissioned in February 1836 between Deptford and Bermondsey. The 1840s, experienced railway boom, which also saw the arrival of long distance railway travel. The introduction of the railways saw a massive rise in population and London’s area became larger than ever before. A few years later, in 1863, London unveiled the world’s first underground railway running from Paddington to Farringdon.

Meanwhile, in 1855, Joseph Bazalgette led a team of workers who constructed over 2,000km of tunnels in London’s first sewage system. The death rate in London dropped dramatically as living conditions improved.

London’s population began to become more international, as Irish settlers moved over during the Great Famine in the mid-1850s. People from poorer parts of Europe emigrated to London, as did many from colonial countries.

Go back and Read Part 3 - Disaster Strikes or Read Part 5 - World Wars and the 20th Century


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