London: The Growth of a Modern World City

For centuries London has acted as nodal point in the process of global integration and the movement of goods and people. This module will explore how London based institutions and individuals have been crucial in the creation and unmaking of a worldwide empire and how, in turn, the physical fabric, demographic makeup, economy and culture of London have been shaped by this experience.

Since 1600 London has developed from being the capital of a relatively peripheral nation state into the centre of a far flung political and commercial empire. A vast network of exchanges developed based on the exploitation of peoples and resources, and centring on the City of London and its port. This network generated the wealth that enabled the industrialisation of Britain and the integration of London into an emerging global economy. Indeed, London became the centre of that economy and was to remain so until the British Empire began to weaken in the wake of the First World War. Since then London has been reshaped by war and imperial decline but has re-emerged as a global centre, though in very different conditions to earlier centuries.

We will be exploring in depth the place of London in the process of global integration, empire building and deconstruction. At the same time we look at the local effects globalisation to build up a comprehensive picture of the development of the modern metropolis.

Aims and objectives

The overall aim of this course is give students a broad historical appreciation of how London emerged as a world city over the course of the past five centuries and to understand how the city’s development is reflected in its topography, built environment and demography. Students will be gain an understanding of the major social and economic forces which have shaped the development of the metropolis.


On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • have a heightened understanding of the major forces which have shaped the development of London since the early sixteenth century
  • have acquired new perspectives on approaching history and the ability to think independently and critically about themes and debates in London's history
  • have a basic grasp of some of the research techniques and resources used in metropolitan history.


  • Class participation (33.3% weighting) - In-class presentations and discussions - Week 14 deadline
  • Research essay (33.3% weighting) - 5000 words - Week 10 deadline
  • Examination (33.3% weighting) - 2 hour paper - Week 14 deadline

Major texts

  • Porter, Roy, London: a Social History (1994)
  • Inwood, S. A History of London (1998)
  • Kerr, J. & Gibson A., London: from Punk to Blair (2003)
  • White, J. London in the Twentieth Century (2001)
  • White, J. London in the Nineteenth Century (2007)
  • Beier, L. & Finlay, R. London 1500-1700: the Making of the Metropolis (1986)
  • Earle, Peter, The Making of the English Middle Class. Business, Society and Family Life in London, 1660-1730 (1989)
  • Clark, Peter and Gillespie, Raymond, Two Capitals: London and Dublin 1500-1840 (2001)
  • Griffith, P. and Jenner, M. Londinopolis. Essays in the social and cultural history of Early Modern London (2000)
  • Schofield, John, The Building of London from the Conquest to the Great Fire (1984)
  • Archer, I, The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London (1991)