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Discovering Britain - Urban Images

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London is the largest city in Europe, and, although, it has recently been dubbed the "coolest city on earth" by Newsweek magazine it has a long history. Archaelogical finds prove that the area around London was inhabited by the Celts from c.800 BC onwards. Following the Roman Emperor Claudius 's conquest of the south east of England he founded the military camp of Londinium on a strategic ford across the river Thames. This camp rapidly expanded into a flourishing port and trading post. Around AD 61, Boadicea, the warlike Queen of East Anglia succeeded in capturing London, but the location continued to grow in importance until the departure of the Romans from Britain in the early fifth century, when the economy reverted to a more agriculturally based one. However, by the tenth century London had become the second city after Winchester. And under Henry I London replaced Winchester as the capital of England. From this point onward the city continued to grow at some pace. In the sixteenth century, London, with its 500,000 inhabitants, had grown into one of the largest cities in Europe. Two events set back its otherwise continuous growth: in 1665 a devastating plague reduced the population of London by almost 70,000, and in 1666 four-fifths of the city were reduced to ashes by the Great Fire. But these events only briefly interrupted the city's development. And over the coming centuries London went onto to become the hub of a huge Empire.

Today the city and its suburbs have a population of almost 10 million. It is the capital of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the centre of the Commonwealth, and also the seat of the British Royal Family, the Parliament, and all the major administrative bodies. Immigrants who have arrived from all over the Commonwealth and elsewhere since 1945 have turned the city into the most cosmopolitan city in Europe. This and London's wealth of historical and cultural attractions have turned the city into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

The Houses of Parliment

Although some parts of the Houses of Parliament date from the eleventh century when the English King Edward the Confessor ordered the construction of the Palace of Westminster, much of what we now see dates from the nineteenth century. In 1605 it survived an attempt by Guy Fawkes and some other Catholic conspirators to blow up the building. But, a fire in 1834 destroyed much of the existing structure so the present neo-Gothic palace which blends with Westminster Abbey was constructed. Today it houses the county's parliament, which consists of two chambers: The House of Commons, and the House of Lords - the "mother of all parliaments"... The clock tower Big Ben makes up part of the complex. The sittings of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are open to the public, although, possibly because of the lenghty queue for admission, few tourists ever enter the building.