Amazing images of London show the city’s evolution over nearly 2,000 years

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London in the 19th century.
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Wikipedia Commons

Like all living things, cities have lifespans.

London started as a small Roman settlement along the Thames River. But today, more than 8.6 million people call the place home.

Here are 18 maps, paintings, and old-time photographs that show the journey of the British capital.


The Romans founded Londinium (now called London) in 43 AD. This artist’s illustration of Londinium in 200 AD shows the city’s first bridge over the Thames River.

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Imgur

Westminster Abbey, founded in the 10th century, is a World Heritage Site and one of London’s oldest and most important buildings. Here it is in a 1749 painting.

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Wikipedia Commons

William, Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England there on Christmas Day, 1066 – just after it was completed.


By the 11th century, London had the largest port in England.

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Getty Images

In the 12th century, the English royal court began to grow in size and sophistication, and settled in Westminster, a neighborhood in central London.

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The Old Palace at Westminster.
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Wikipedia Commons

In 1176, King Henry II commissioned a new stone bridge. Finished in 1284, the original London Bridge would stand for over 600 years. It supported homes and shops — which weighed down its arches over time.

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“View of London Bridge,” a 1632 oil painting by Claude de Jongh.
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Wikipedia Commons

The development of the printing press in the early 15th century made news available to the entire city and improved literacy levels. Coffeehouses also became popular spots for friendly debates.

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A London coffee house, circa 1660s.
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Public Domain

In the 17th century, London suffered from the Great Plague, which killed about 100,000 people. In 1666, the Great Fire broke out; it took the city a decade to rebuild.

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Wikipedia Commons

The city became a major hub for trade throughout the 1700s, and the Port of London expanded downstream.

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London Bridge, circa 1750.
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Wikipedia Commons

During the Georgian era (from 1714 to 1830), new districts like Mayfair formed, and new bridges over the Thames encouraged development in South London.

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London’s Trafalgar Square in 1814.
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Wikipedia Commons

In the mid-19th century, London overtook Amsterdam as the Europe’s leading financial center …

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A London street, circa 1860s.
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James Hedderly

… and the Royal Navy became the world’s leading military fleet.

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London in the 19th century.
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Wikipedia Commons

London was the largest city in the world from 1831 until 1925, when New York City superseded it.

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Price’s candle factory and other riverside factories in Vauxhall, southwest London, 1928.
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Heritage Calling

The growing population and increased traffic led to the creation of the world’s first local, underground urban rail network in the late 1860s.

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The construction of the Metropolitan District Railway’s underground lines in London was undertaken between 1866 and 1870.
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Getty Images

King George VI started his reign in 1936. Here’s a photo of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II at 13 years old, in 1939:


WWII devastated London starting in 1941. As seen below, civilians hid in underground train stations to get away from air raids, which killed approximately 30,000 Londoners by the war’s end. The city then slowly began to rebuild itself.


Starting in the mid-1960s, London became a global center for fashion, music, and art.


The city has maintained its place as a center of global power …

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Piccadilly Circus in London, circa 1950s.
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Transpressnz

… and today, over 8.6 million people reside there.

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Pixabay