London, the capital of Great Britain, is also one of the world’s capitals of finance, fashion, arts and entertainment. The city has a recorded history dating back to Roman times and encompassing the lives of such illustrious political figures as William the Conqueror, Thomas à Becket, and Queen Elizabeth I, as well as those of William Shakespeare, John Milton, and the other authors who created one of the world’s great bodies of literature.
Formerly the heart of a vast empire, London was also a center of the Industrial Revolution (c. 1750) and a showcase for both the material progress and the dire social ills it created. In the twentieth century, the city has rebuilt and renewed itself following the devastating bombing attacks of World War II (1939–1945) and discovered a new identity as a post-imperial, multi-ethnic metropolis. It enters a new century (and the third millennium of its history) reinvigorated by a booming economy, as well as the inauguration of a new form of local government.