London has witnessed everything from pilgrimages, celebrations, acts of heroism and moments of religious contemplation to riots, executions, grisly murders and disastrous fires. It is a history of work and capital, of power and exuberance, and of great creativity from a rich host of artists and writers, Shakespeare and Dickens among them, but also of violent crime, exploitation, loneliness and extreme hardship; life in the poverty ridden East of the city could not be more different than life in its opulent West End. Drawing upon extracts from contemporary letters, diaries and memoirs of fascinating inhabitants and visitors, this anthology by acclaimed London historian Peter Ackroyd and Thomas Wright tells the story of the city from its earliest years up to the present day. Here you will find Evelyn's famous account of the Great Fire in 1666, Dickens' brilliant evocation of the Gordon Riots of 1780, Boswell's description of the compilation of Dr Johnson's Dictionary, and Churchill's recollections of the Blitz. Modern visitors and armchair readers alike are given a ringside view to the past and an unforgettable experience of the essential spirit of London.
Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, critic and biographer. Among others he has won the Whitbread Biography Award and the Guardian fiction prize. His London: The Biography (2000) was awarded the South Bank Show Annual Award for Literature. He was educated at Cambridge and Yale Universities, was literary editor of The Spectator and then chief non-fiction book reviewer for The Times. He lives in London. In 2003 he was awarded a CBE.