London: A Short History of the Greatest City in the Western World

Course No. 8894
Professor Robert Bucholz, D.Phil.
Loyola University Chicago
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Course No. 8894
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Course Overview

No city has had as powerful and as enduring an impact on Western civilization as London. Throughout its vast and riveting history, London played a critical role in shaping many of the most important political, social, cultural, and economic institutions and systems that you live with today. Consider that London

  • was the capital of a powerful empire that covered one-fifth of the world's landmass and one-quarter of its population;
  • was the headquarters of a constitutional monarchy with more elements of democracy and popular participation than any Western country before the United States;
  • was the economic center of Europe both during and after the Industrial Revolution, serving as its financial center, its banking center, and its largest port;
  • spearheaded innovative modern solutions (including public institutions and municipal police forces) to universal human ills such as crime, disease, and poverty;
  • was the site of historical political movements that led to wider government reform, including the fight for women's suffrage;
  • was the home to some of history's greatest individuals, including William Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, and Winston Churchill; and
  • served as the last bastion of freedom in Europe against the onslaught of the Nazis in World War II.

London's greatness continues to this day. The city stands as a global metropolitan center and continues to be synonymous with important developments in international business, culture, and politics.

But why London? What made the city the perfect environment for all these great political, social, and cultural developments? How did this city endure sweeping historical revolutions and disasters without crumbling? And what about its citizens—what exactly defines a Londoner, both in the past and today?

London: A Short History of the Greatest City in the Western World is your opportunity to find the answers to these and other questions about this magnificent metropolis. In 24 fascinating lectures, Oxford-trained historian and award-winning Professor Robert Bucholz of Loyola University Chicago takes you through London's history, from its birth as a Roman outpost in the 1st century C.E. to its current status as a 21st-century global village. An encyclopedic view of a city like no other, this course will take you back to London as it was lived and felt throughout history.

If you've been to London before, prepare to discover a wealth of new insights into the city you thought you knew. And if you haven't—prepare to be captivated by a city whose sights, history, people, and spirit serve as an amazing window into Western history.

Explore London's Role in Epic Historical Moments

The cultural flowering of the English Renaissance; the horrors of the Great Plague; the turmoil of the English civil war; the epic conflict of World Wars I and II—by playing crucial roles in these and other historical events, London helped lay the foundation for the modern world.

London: A Short History examines these and other epic chapters in British and world history through the lens of this amazing capital. Every lecture explores how these definitive historical moments affected the evolution of the city and the lives of both iconic and everyday Londoners.

Your focus is always on the enduring themes of the city's story, including its steady growth, its cultural diversity, and its ability to survive even in the face of overwhelming hardships.

Walk through London's Streets

What makes London: A Short History unique from other historical studies of great cities is that it takes you deep into the streets of London during formative periods in its history. While broad cultural, political, and demographic trends are important parts of the city's story, Professor Bucholz also continuously emphasizes the importance of understanding and experiencing the sights and sounds of London as it was lived by its residents.

At important moments throughout the course, you zoom in on the streets of London in a series of "walking tour" lectures. In these imaginative lectures, you travel through various parts of the city, guided by a Londoner who is both an icon of Western civilization and a representative of the period's culture and customs. You experience

  • medieval London with poet Geoffrey Chaucer;
  • Elizabethan London with playwright William Shakespeare;
  • 17th-century London with diarist and socialite Samuel Pepys;
  • 18th-century London with writer Samuel Johnson; and
  • Victorian London with novelist Charles Dickens.

In addition, the course closes with Professor Bucholz's personalized tour of late 20th- and early 21st-century London.

In each of these tours, you follow your particular guide through daily life in historical London, noting important landmarks and learning the secret histories behind places such as Westminster Abbey, Fleet Street, Piccadilly Circus, and London Bridge. With each new tour, your understanding of London's evolution increases exponentially.

An Unforgettable Look at an Unforgettable City

London incorporates a wealth of eyewitness accounts from journals, poems, diaries, and newspaper articles to answer these questions and intimately connect you with daily life in this great city. These perceptive, affecting voices convey what happens when average individuals become willing (or unwilling) participants in larger historical moments.

A veteran Teaching Company lecturer and a renowned American scholar of British history, Professor Bucholz has crafted London: A Short History as a history of the city for an American audience. While the lectures are deeply infused with the rich details of British life and customs, they are always accessible to those who have never set foot in London's streets.

With its interdisciplinary approach to this great city—one that draws from court history, literature, sociology, urban planning, economics, and more—London: A Short History will undoubtedly delight and surprise you, regardless of your familiarity with this amazing city. By the final lecture, you'll come to realize just what Samuel Johnson meant when he famously declared, "there is in London, all that life can afford."

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    There's No Place like London
    This introductory lecture gives you a brief overview of London, introduces you to several overarching themes—including London's growth, diversity, and resilience—and shows you why this magnificent metropolis is the greatest city in the Western world. x
  • 2
    The Rise and Fall of Roman Londinium
    Explore the early centuries of London's history, from its foundation in 60 C.E. as Londinium—the largest Roman settlement in Britain—to its eventual decline and abandonment at the end of the 4th century C.E. after the collapse of the Roman Empire. x
  • 3
    Medieval London's Thousand-Year Climb
    How did London revive itself and come to play a prominent part in early British history? Discover the important roles played by the Christian church, Viking scourges, leaders such as Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror, and the Magna Carta. x
  • 4
    Economic Life in Chaucer's London
    Walk the streets of medieval London as it was lived and experienced by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. This intimate historical tour includes looks at places such as the Tower of London, the London docks, the markets on East Cheap, and the shops and taverns of Cheapside. x
  • 5
    Politics and Religion in Chaucer's London
    Continue touring 14th-century London by heading west and exploring the importance of London's Guildhall (City Hall), the magnificence of old St. Paul's Cathedral (as well as its churchyard), the excitement of the Strand, and the splendor of Westminster Abbey. x
  • 6
    London Embraces the Early Tudors
    Investigate the impact of the Tudor dynasty on the lives of Londoners, with pointed looks at the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Mary I. Also, study how London dealt with the religious turmoil brought about by the Protestant Reformation. x
  • 7
    Elizabeth I and London as a Stage
    Delve into the impact of Queen Elizabeth's reign on London between 1558 and 1603. Highly popular among Londoners, Queen Elizabeth used the city as a stage on which to display the rich pageantry of the Tudor monarchy. x
  • 8
    Life in Shakespeare's London—East
    Get an in-depth look at London through the eyes of William Shakespeare, who stands in for the typical late 16th-century immigrant to the city. Tour London's East End (the traditional arrival point for immigrants), the bustle of the Royal Exchange, Bridewell Prison, and London's four great law schools. x
  • 9
    Life in Shakespeare's London—West
    As your tour of Shakespearean London continues, gain insights into vibrant parts of the city, including St. James's Park, Westminster Hall, and London Bridge. Also, explore the experience of attending a play at the Rose Theatre—which reveals much about theatergoing habits during this period in London's history. x
  • 10
    London Rejects the Early Stuarts
    Explore London life between 1603 and 1660, focusing on the effects of the city's population growth on its economic system, the rise of crime in its streets, the fervent struggles between Protestants and Catholics, and the breakdown of royal authority that resulted in the English civil war. x
  • 11
    Life in Samuel Pepys's 17th-Century London
    The rise of two new watering holes in London (the coffee house and the club); the spectacle and excitement of the court scene at Whitehall; the amusements of the 17th-century pleasure garden—encounter these and other aspects of Restoration London through the detailed diary entries of Samuel Pepys. x
  • 12
    Plague and Fire
    Samuel Pepys's diary entries also provide you with an intimate window into the two great disasters that wracked London in the mid-1660s: the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. Both of these events, you learn, had an unimaginable impact on the everyday lives of Londoners. x
  • 13
    London Rises Again—As an Imperial Capital
    In the last decades of the 17th century, London grew into the capital of a world empire. Follow London's reconstruction and discover how a series of nationwide political, commercial, and economic changes—including the Glorious Revolution—irrevocably transformed the city. x
  • 14
    Johnson's London—All That Life Can Afford
    What was life like in 18th-century London? Use author Samuel Johnson as a lens through which to view the city's growing newspaper business, its chophouses and ale-houses, the decline of court culture, and the rise of public patronage for the arts. x
  • 15
    The Underside of 18th-Century London
    Eighteenth-century London, you find, was also rampant with poverty and crime. Investigate the underbelly of Samuel Johnson's London: a world of prostitutes, abandoned children, and murderers. Then, see how the city combated these social ills through public institutions (including the Foundling Hospital) and popular public hangings. x
  • 16
    London Confronts Its Problems
    Focus on the many ways that London solved the problems that had overwhelmed it, including building bridges to alleviate increased horse-drawn traffic, developing an intricate sewage system to combat water pollution, and reforming the law enforcement system to better handle the city's wave of riots. x
  • 17
    Life in Dickens's London
    Track the city's transition into the Victorian era through the novels and personal impressions of Charles Dickens. See how previously covered territory—including Fleet Street, Westminster Palace, and Covent Garden—has evolved, and explore Bloomsbury, home to both Dickens and the extraordinary collections of the British Museum and the British Library. x
  • 18
    Two Windows into Victorian London
    Victorian London was a city of contrasts. See this reflected in two major events that defined the city: Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee of 1887, which revived the popularity of the monarchy, and the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888, which reveal much about the period's social and cultural atmosphere. x
  • 19
    Questions Postponed and the Great War
    Explore the women's suffrage movement and the global crisis of World War I as windows into London life in the early 20th century. Chart these two defining moments in British history through the eyewitness accounts of journalists, writers, and everyday Londoners. x
  • 20
    London's Interwar Expansion and Diversions
    Postwar London struggled with economic trauma, a national strike, and a sharp increase in unemployment. Yet this period, you discover, also saw the modernization of the city's transportation system and architecture, a shift in social norms, and new forms of popular entertainment. x
  • 21
    The Blitz—The Greatest Target in the World
    Between September 1940 and May 1941, London came under frequent air attack by Nazi Germany—an event known as "the Blitz." Experience this critical episode of World War II through the accounts of the Londoners who endured it and see how—as always—the city persevered through uncertain times. x
  • 22
    Postwar London Returns to Life
    Find out how postwar Londoners faced the bleakness of a troubled economy and the environmental disaster of 1952's Big Smoke. Then, see how the dire situation turned around with increased economic prosperity, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and an influx of immigrants who diversified London life and culture. x
  • 23
    The Varied Winds of Change
    Survey the waves of change that washed over London, from the "Swinging Sixties"—with its revolutions in theater, music, and fashion and its nuclear disarmament protests—to the 1980s and the election of a Conservative government under British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. x
  • 24
    Millennial London—How Do You Like It?
    Conclude the course with a journey through contemporary London and a look at some events that have defined the city in recent years and testify to its powerful and enduring spirit: Princess Diana's death, the unification of the city government under the Greater London Authority, and the 2005 terrorist bombings. x

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Video DVD
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  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 152-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 152-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Robert Bucholz

About Your Professor

Robert Bucholz, D.Phil.
Loyola University Chicago
Dr. Robert Bucholz is Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago, where he has taught since 1988. He earned his B.A. in History from Cornell University and his D.Phil. in Modern History from Oxford University. Before joining the faculty at Loyola University, Professor Bucholz taught at numerous universities, including Cornell University; California State University, Long Beach; and Loyola, Marymount University. He is a...
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Reviews

London: A Short History of the Greatest City in the Western World is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 110.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from loved it!! This course is a wonderful way to learn not just London's history but England's history too. Professor Bucholz is able to give not just the history of London but his personal experience of London. I highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2020-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well done! My wife and I have been to London several times since the late '70s, but there was much in this lecture series that was new to us. One of the reviews from several years ago criticized the series for not having enough good visuals, though that was not our experience in viewing it. (Perhaps the images and maps have been spruced up since its original release. If so, bravo!) Professor Bucholz is a witty presenter, with hand gestures that draw you in. He obviously loves London and has a fine historical grasp of its changes over the centuries. We were not disappointed at all.
Date published: 2020-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tremendous mastery of the subject I am stunned by the professor's encyclopedic knowledge of his material. At the same time, he brings wit and - not to put to fine a point on it - passion to his presentation, an obvious love of his subject and of teaching itself. This is what learning needs and I am delighted. Thank you.
Date published: 2020-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Town on the Thames You cannot and should not go to London right now, with COVID-19 raging around the world, but you can visit the city in its past with the aid of this course. Beginning a little less than two thousand years ago as small Roman provincial town on the Thames River in southern England, London is now a metropolis of millions and one of the world’s principal financial centers. Professor Bucholz draws out several themes. First, English kings and queens have had to control London to master the whole country, because it has the central government’s bureaucracy, because as a major trading port it has a lot of money to lend, and because—for the era before standing professional armies—it maintained “trained bands” that were more disciplined than ordinary militia. By losing London, Charles I also lost the civil wars that followed, and his head too. Second, the city also served its monarchs as a theater of power, providing a stage and an audience. Third, the city came back from several disasters, including its abandonment in the fifth century, several outbreaks of the Black Death, the Great Fire of 1666, the Blitz during World War II, and the Big Smoke of 1952, in which air pollution killed up to 12,000 people. Fourth, London was a place of terrible inequality and filth. Its air and water pollution affected mostly the East End, where its working class and poor lived, while sparing the West End, the place of merchants, lawyers, officials and monarchs. Finally, London has produced many famous people, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Samuel Pepys, Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens and Jack the Ripper. Bucholz has designed the course very well. He provides many fitting quotations by contemporary observers, occasionally with a passable imitation of the local accent. He leads you on walking tours during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century (Lecture 4), the late sixteenth century (Lectures 8 and 9), and the end of the second millennium (Lecture 24). In this way you can “see” famous buildings that have long since vanished, such as former bishops’ palaces along the Thames, or Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, which became dilapidated during the Tudor era and burned to the ground in 1666. He also warns you which neighborhoods and locales are likely to get you robbed or killed. I wish he had spent even more time talking about the city and less about high politics, which he covers very well in his course on England during the Tudors and Stuarts. For the early twentieth century, I would have liked greater detail about public transportation, automobiles, and the new mass entertainment, though he briefly discusses nightlife and team sports in Lecture 20. In all else this course is excellent. I hope to see similar ones on other great European cities with ancient roots and cultural wealth, including Paris, Rome (with emphasis on the post-classical past), Vienna, Moscow, and Istanbul. Perhaps there are cities in other parts of the world that would work as well. Delhi, Beijing, Cairo and Baghdad come to mind.
Date published: 2020-04-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A test case This course is excellent, engaging, and informative as all but one of my many TTC courses have been. However, I bought this one as a test case to see how it would work out being limited to listening to it only from the computer or my smartphone. And I find that I really don't enjoy having my phone tied up in order to listen. I also don't enjoy the folderol of uploading the course lecture by lecture and putting it in a file in order to listen.
Date published: 2020-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course, not a tourist guide If you're looking for London's place in the history of England and the U.K., this course covers it all. If you have a feel for London already, the places you've been will enhance your taking the course. It's a complete history of London, designed for the serious, even if an arm chair historian, scholar interested in the CIty.
Date published: 2020-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great city, great course First let me say that Prof. Bucholz is one of the stars in The Great Courses collection of teachers. This course on London dovetails very nicely with Prof. Bucholz’s courses on English History and Foundations of Western Civilization Two,( both are excellent). It never ceases to amaze me how Prof. Bucholz manages to discuss major points while interjecting interesting details and his own sense of humor.This makes the lectures not only informative but entertaining. His lecture style makes learning easy and enjoyable. I never had a strong desire to visit London, until now. Great city, great course.
Date published: 2019-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't Stop Listening Learning about London from its beginning made it easier for me to remember historical events. I watched one or two or even three lectures a day. The chronology, details, and entertaining anecdotes kept me glued to my computer screen. "Add to the words of the poet the beauty of thy voice" applies here. Spacially, Professor Buchholz points out the streets and the famous places in the city and their relationship to each other, places I've heard of but never could find, despite the fact that I have been there six or more times. I'll probably look at these course lectures again, for entertainment as well as refreshing my memory of history.
Date published: 2019-08-24
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