London, the capital of the United Kingdom, is a place that goes back in time. As confirmed by an accidental archeological find during the construction of a railway tunnel in London in October 2013, the city was first established as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia. With that settlement having been abandoned after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the place that became known as London didn’t re-emerge until it was re-founded by Alfred the Great in 886 AD (with the city becoming the largest in England by the 11th century).
One of London’s tourist attractions, the Tower of London, was build by William the Conqueror in 1078, while another local site, Westminster Hall, was erected in 1097 (and became the English monarch’s principal residence by the late Medieval period). Having survived the Black Death of the mid-14th century, London grew in importance during the rise of Mercantilism in the 16th century (during the same period that a certain literary icon named William Shakespeare made a name for himself there). This also the period that well-regarded English monarch Elizabeth I (daughter of King Henry VIII) ruled, presiding over the country’s naval victory over the Spanish Armada
By the 17th & 18th centuries, England began the process of building its empire, which eventually stretched to all corners of the globes – from the Americas to Africa, India, Australia and the South Pacific (making the port of London grow in importance). By the 20th century, London was the world’s largest city (a by-product of the country, which became Great Britain, having the largest empire in the world). With the city enduring aerial bombings by the Germans during both World War I & II, London not only survived, but grew even more during the post-war period. From the 1940s onward, London received large waves of immigrants from countries that became its former colonies, like Jamaica, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Even though Britain no longer has its empire, London still reigns in another respect – as a global center of finance (vying with New York City as the most important location of global finance). Perhaps to no surprise, London’s largest industry is finance (with around 325,000 individuals employed in that sector by 2007, and over 480 overseas banks having a presence there). London is also a major retail center (earning the highest non-food retail sales of any metropolis in the world in 2010).
Nowadays, the Port of London is the second-largest in the UK. Aside from finance, tourism is another major industry in London, attracting 27 million visitors (and employing well over 300,000 full-time workers). One of the drivers of London’s tourism is the Royal Family and anything connected to it (from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London). Of course, London, now a multi-cultural trading center boasting a hodge podge of architectural styles, made the most of its tourist appeal by hosting the 2012 Olympics (attracting millions more visitors into the country). Both visitors and residents agree that London is a city on the move that constantly changes with the times.