Posts Tagged ‘London’

Photos from London’s Margins

Monday, January 18th, 2016

There are lots of unused photos from my feature in February’s Country Walking magazine on walks from the ends of London’s tube lines, so I thought I would post a few of them here – I got up really early to get to these places for the dawn light, so I’d like someone else to see them too!













Book review: Religion in Medieval London by Bruno Barber

Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Religion in Medieval London

Religion in Medieval London

A well-produced and nicely illustrated guide to the archaeology of belief in medieval London. No quarrels with the analysis of the archaeological findings, but whenever the authors attempt to explain the wider historical context, they seem to be floundering. For instance, they appear to think that the key Christian concept of the Eucharist, that the bread and wine offered during Mass become the Body and Blood of Christ, was first promulgated at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, when in fact the council defined as dogma a pre-existing belief.

Where the authors really fall down, though, is their explanation and potted history of the Crusades, which appears to have got stuck in the first wave of post-Victorian revisionism, which replaced one crude dichotomy (Crusaders good, Saracens, apart from Saladin, bad) with an even cruder one (all Crusaders bad, all Muslims good). As archaeologists and historians they really should know that things have moved past that, with a far more nuanced appreciation and understanding of both sides in the conflict. So, in summary, good on the archaeology, pretty poor on everything else.

Book review: Londonopolis by Martin Latham

Friday, January 23rd, 2015
Londonopolis by Martin Latham

Londonopolis by Martin Latham

This is the sort of book to provoke irritation, annoyance and, finally, someone coming for your throat, teeth bared as they scream, “I can’t take any more!”

What they can’t take any more is the endless stream of curious facts that you (or indeed I) emerge from toilet or bathroom spouting, things like, “Did you know that Peter the Great lived in Deptford and learned shipbuilding there?” or, “Did you know the working day of the East India Company was 9am to 3pm?”, or, “Did you know the cursus at Heathrow is so long and straight people thought it was a Roamn road?” and, finally provoking murderous rage, “Did you know a cursus is a long, straight track with raised banks on either side?” After such a barrage of post latrine and post bath facts, I think any jury would rightly find the accused not guilty, and arraign the author before a court on a charge of overloading the voluble with curious facts, in which case he would surely be found guilty.

So, there you have it: Londonopolis, read it – in bath or toilet or similar dip-into venue – at your peril: you’re sure to emerge to amaze your family and friends with so much London lore that they will, in the end, kill you – thus adding a whole new chapter to the second edition!

Book review: Johnson’s Life of London by Boris Johnson

Thursday, January 16th, 2014


Johnson writes with the chutzpah of a tabloid journalist and the allusions of a Classical scholar. The book, a history of London through portraits of notable Londoners through the centuries, is vivid and shot through with the sort of one liners that would not be out of place on ‘Have I Got News For You’. It may be an act, but what a finely honed act it is – and I can’t imagine Ken Livingstone writing a book nearly as readable.


Book review: London: the Concise Biography by Peter Ackroyd

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014


Ackroyd’s biography of London comes garlanded with accolades and they are well deserved: beautifully written, with a telling eye for detail and stuffed full with anecdote and incident, it is a meditation and discovery of an almost infinitely varied city. Calling it a ‘biography’ rather than a ‘history’ is not, in fact, an affectation but a description – Ackroyd treats London almost as a living creature, obeying the primal impulse to grow and spread (although London does not reproduce itself but, like the Borg, assimilates). My only real criticism is that while Ackroyd argues for the essential paganism of the city, he often brings up but then ignores the many expressions of radical religious dissent that have arisen in London – it’s the only major lacuna I noticed in the book.