What is London? Old, New, Complex or What?
L iving in London for all or most of ones life doesn't necessarily determine or qualify you to ownership of being a Londoner. London in itself is split along medieval lines. It's manors are disparate and constantly evolving.

Cockney wide boys are nearly a thing of the past, now replaced with Multi-ethnic London English (MLE) yet they're still very much a part of London, it's rich and vibrant history. Just like the Jewish immigrants to London which inspired Dickens's (stereotypical) Fagin.

Latterly the Bengali immigrant community imprinted it's identity on the east end, that has now been overlaid by the young hip and trendy Shoreditch-Old Street-Clerkenwell community, part of the exploding Tech City creative hub which is set to transform the area into a global tech hub to rival Silicon Valley by 2020. It will no longer be a deprived community as it was from the era of industrial revolution, when dock workers, waifs and strays from all corners of the empire found solace in the slums with their families, be it in the brothels, opium dens or Molly houses of Jack The Rippers east end.

It is said that today London is the second biggest city in France, but that's not new, the French have been here since the Norman conquest and the Huguenots who fled religious persecution to where? East London!

It's a collection of different communities with different cultures, histories and relationships with the capital, the Empire, the continent and the establishment. This is what London is today! A vast complex super organism, steeped in history, culture, religions, sexuality, poverty, suspicion, racism borne about by fear of change and the feeling of being overrun by the newly arrived. Who can really lay claim to being purely British, or even English?

Refugees from wars of old have left their mark, from the Jacobean era and before, but notably so in this era which in law divided Christianity along Catholic or Protestant lines, when Guy Fawkes "The Terrorist" and companions, were hung drawn and quartered, celebrated to this day on November 5th, how do modern Catholics feel about that? Well you could point out that many of them aren't too happy to this day, which London has felt the impact of the troubles in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It was also era in which Shakespeare lived and wrote many of his works. Then shortly after the bubonic plague laid waste to the population and then the great fire gave rise to Wrens footprint.

Referring to the large Irish community who have fought in wars over centuries for and against a long list of royals or Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. It was the Irish navvies that built the canals and railroad systems, key elements that drove the industrial revolution and by proxy the British Empire. Industrial might included and underpinned military might.

Back to more recent immigration, the image of London is of East end London and cockneys, pearly kings and queens, rhyming slang and striking dockers who routinely stole cargo and sold it on to friends and family, brown shirts or the London of the blitz and keep calm and carry on. The London image is defined in many ways by that image but also because London port was the primary port of entry for trade and people from the world over.

The postwar London immigrants began arriving from the corners of the former empire via Heathrow and many of them settled around there which has given rise to large Hindu and Sikh populations with a smattering of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who mainly were mainly settled in the east end, but there's a fair representation in hounslow and Southall although they mightn't be the dominant Subcontinental ethnic group but you can find them in Slough and surrounding areas. West Indians found themselves settling in notting hill and Willesden & acton, along with Lambeth and parts of Wandsworth. The African immigration came a little later which overlaid a new dimension and diversity conversely a little tension either through disaffection with predominantly working class white "indigenous" communities.

For centuries the gypsy/Roma community have settled in the country albeit in their almost unique and strangely reminiscent of ancient man by being nomadic. They too have added to the diversity and culture of the Irish and wider community because many have settled in traditional/conventional homes and merged into the population as opposed to the traditions and conventions unique to their ethnic grouping.

Reverting back to our earlier question, who can really lay claim to being pure British or even English? The Royal family certainly can't, or maybe they can? If you look at their bloodline which is mixed with the royal blood of the Vikings, Normans, latterly the royal houses of the French, Germans, Russian, Dutch, Danes, Belgium, Greeks and either by marriage through the centuries and or are descendants of the first Empress of India. We also dare say a smattering of Ottomans via, Spain and Austro-Hungarian empire and possibly earlier via Rome and the pharaohs as some have said. They have just as much mixed race blood which is a reflection of the people over whom they hold dominion, (thankfully more ceremonially that literally). But who can possibly lay claim to being a greater ambassador of Britishness than the "not"so "British" Royals.

To be British is to embrace a code of conduct, of values of freedoms, of faith, or no faith, race, creed, colour, sexuality and harmony of mind.

In the grand scheme of things there are many that would argue that the English are a scourge, that through imperial conquest and subjugation laid swathe to the Catholics of Ireland, overran the Scots and subdued (the repercussions of which are still being felt to this day; the Irish troubles and the forthcoming Scottish referendum) the Welsh with murder, war, conquest and marriage. But these nations combined went on to rule the world, that in turn gave us a commonwealth with a rich shared history, judicial framework, innovation and advances in industry, sport, cuisine, medicine, agriculture all coming together to give us the London that we know and love today!

When sat on the Southbank or along any part of the river Thames looking out at the vista; ask yourself this question, what do you see? Some say, beauty, architecture or some other variation of how it relates to them. One has said power. What we see is over two thousand years of history.

What is London? It's all of the above and more! Long may it continue to define the modern world we know today and beyond.


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