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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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
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?

Video DVD
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 104.
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
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Oh Right -- it's History! I previously listened to Professor Bucholz's series on England from the Tudors to the Stuarts, and it was delightful. He has a wonderful dry sense of humor, exquisite timing and articulation, and lucid explanations which bring history to life. I bought this actually thinking maybe it would be a good tour guide for visiting London. I soon learned that no, it isn't really a tour guide, it's a history of London, just like the title says...d'oh! In 24 lectures he covers London from the earliest information we have available about life there, up to the modern era. This is a fascinating history of one of the world's great cities, from a master lecturer.
Date published: 2019-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative & Entertaining An enjoyable history lesson and a perfect prelude to visiting London. Professor Bucholz's tongue-in-cheek humor helped to ensure my attention never wandered. I especially liked his walk-throughs in the shoes of famous historic Londoners, which brought various periods into vivid and memorable focus.
Date published: 2019-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of London and it's history These lectures are fast-paced, fact rich and pleasantly presented. I learned much new information and deep details about London. This course is now a favorite in our collection.
Date published: 2019-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, but something's missing I am a fan of Professor Bucholz. His "Foundations of Western Civilization II" series was hugely illuminating, reconfiguring my understanding of the past 700 years. Here, he is predictably well-prepared and articulate, but the series is a bit flat. I suggest he confer with Prof. Allitt, who took two summers traveling around and photographing Britain for his "Great Tours: Britain" series, which was riveting. London is the most photogenic of cities. Even though it has burned down at least twice, and been built over massively, there are lots of bits and pieces of the deep past to be seen. I would have liked to see, for example, the remnants of the Roman wall still extant, and much else. Take some time off, Robert, and take to foot for a season. It will do you, and us, a lot of good.
Date published: 2019-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lecture series on a fascinating topic! I really like the pacing the instructor has when explaining so much great information and funny stories regarding London's founding and history. He has really fun anecdotes and covers the critical parts of the history and story of the formation of London. very well. Great job on this course overall!
Date published: 2019-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely enjoyable! Recommend the Video/DVD format!!! This is a very visual course. The map of London (changing throughout the historical eras) is pivotal to the lectures. The professor has a comfortable and, at times, theatric approach which is both entertaining and engaging. I especially enjoyed the professor's ability to make historic London come to life by "walking" it's streets and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the different time periods.
Date published: 2018-10-12
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