London is the capital city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its founding by the Romans, who named it Londinium. London's ancient core, the City of London, largely retains its 1.12-square-mile (2.9 km2) medieval boundaries and in 2011 had a resident population of 7,375, making it the smallest city in England. Since at least the 19th century, the term London has also referred to the metropolis developed around this core. The bulk of this conurbation forms the Greater London administrative area (coterminous with the London region), governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
London is a leading global city, with strengths in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism, and transport all contributing to its prominence. It is one of the world's leading financial centres and has the fifth-or sixth-largest metropolitan area GDP in the world depending on measurement. London is a world cultural capital. It is the world's most-visited city as measured by international arrivals and has the world's largest city airport system measured by passenger traffic. London's 43 universities form the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe. In 2012, London became the first city to host the modern Summer Olympic Games three times.
London has a diverse range of peoples and cultures, and more than 300 languages are spoken within Greater London. The region had an official population of 8,416,535 in 2013, the largest of any municipality in the European Union, and accounting for 12.5 percent of the UK population. London's urban area is the second most populous in the EU, after Paris, with 9,787,426 inhabitants according to the 2011 census. The city's metropolitan area is one of the most populous in Europe with 13,614,409 inhabitants, while the Greater London Authority puts the population of London metropolitan region at 21 million. London was the world's most populous city from around 1831 to 1925.
London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich (in which the Royal Observatory, Greenwich marks the Prime Meridian, 0° longitude, and GMT). Other famous landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, and The Shard. London is home to numerous museums, galleries, libraries, sporting events and other cultural institutions, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, British Library and 40 West End theatres. The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world.
Editing History of London London, the capital city of England and the United Kingdom, has a history dating back over 2,000 years. During this time, it has grown to become one of the most significant financial and cultural capitals of the world. It has experienced plague, devastating fire, civil war, aerial bombardment, and terrorist attacks. The City of London is its historic core and today is its primary financial district, though it now represents a tiny part of the wider metropolis of Greater London.
The name of London is derived from Londinium, established in the 1st century as a commercial centre in Roman Britain. The etymology of the name is uncertain. The stems Londin- and Lundin- are the most prevalent in names used from Roman times onward.
Legendary foundations and prehistoric London
According to the legendary Historia Regum Britanniae, of Geoffrey of Monmouth, London was founded by Brutus of Troy about 1000–1100 B.C. after he defeated the native giant Gogmagog; the settlement was known as Caer Troia, Troia Nova (Latin for New Troy), which, according to a pseudo-etymology, was corrupted to Trinovantum. Trinovantes were the Iron Age tribe who inhabited the area prior to the Romans. Geoffrey provides prehistoric London with a rich array of legendary kings, such as King Lud (see also Lludd, from Welsh Mythology) who, he claims, renamed the town Caer Ludein, from which London was derived, and was buried at Ludgate.
However, despite intensive excavations, archaeologists have found no evidence of a prehistoric major settlement in the area. There have been scattered prehistoric finds, evidence of farming, burial and traces of habitation, but nothing more substantial. It is now considered unlikely that a pre-Roman city existed, but as some of the Roman city remains unexcavated, it is still just possible that some major settlement may yet be discovered. London was most likely a rural area with scattered settlement. Rich finds such as the Battersea Shield, found in the Thames near Chelsea, suggest the area was important; there may have been important settlements at Egham and Brentford, and there was a hillfort at Uphall Camp, Ilford, but no city in the area of the Roman London, the present day City of London.
Some discoveries indicate probable very early settlements near the Thames in the London area. In 2010 the foundations of a large timber structure, dated to 4000BC, were found on the Thames foreshore, south of Vauxhall Bridge. The function of the mesolithic structure is not known. In 1999, the remains of a Bronze Age bridge were found, again on the foreshore south of Vauxhall Bridge. This bridge either crossed the Thames, or went to a now lost island in the river. Dendrology dated the timbers to 1500BC. In 2001 a further dig found that the timbers were driven vertically into the ground on the south bank of the Thames west of Vauxhall Bridge. All these structures are on the south bank at a natural crossing point where the River Effra flows into the River Thames.
Numerous finds have been made of spear heads and weaponry from the Bronze and Iron ages near the banks of the Thames in the London area, many of which had clearly been used in battle. This suggests that the Thames was an important tribal boundary.
Roman London (43-410 AD)
Londinium was established as a civilian town by the Romans about seven years after the invasion of AD 43. London, like Rome, was founded on the point of the river where it was narrow enough to bridge and the strategic location of the city provided easy access to much of Europe. Early Roman London occupied a relatively small area, roughly equivalent to the size of Hyde Park. In around AD 60, it was destroyed by the Iceni led by their queen Boudica. The city was quickly rebuilt as a planned Roman town and recovered after perhaps 10 years, the city growing rapidly over the following decades.