London's post World War II transformation, History of London
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London, the capital city of England and the United Kingdom, has a history going back over 2,000 years. During that time it has grown to one of the world's most significant financial and cultural capital cities. It has withstood plague, devastating fire, civil war, aerial bombardment, terrorist attacks, and rioting.
The City of London, often referred to simply as "the City", is Greater London's historic core and today is its primary financial district, though it now represents just a tiny part of the wider metropolis.
In World War II
During World War II, London, as many other British cities, suffered severe damage, being bombed extensively by the Luftwaffe as a part of The Blitz. Prior to the bombing, hundreds of thousands of children in London were evacuated to the countryside to avoid the bombing. Civilians took shelter from the air raids in underground stations.
The heaviest bombing took place during The Blitz between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941. During this period, London was subjected to 71 separate raids receiving over 18,000 tonnes of high explosive. One raid in December 1940, which became known as the Second Great Fire of London, saw a firestorm engulf much of the City of London and destroy many historic buildings. St Paul's Cathedral, however, remained unscathed; a photograph showing the Cathedral shrouded in smoke became a famous image of the war.
Having failed to defeat Britain, Hitler turned his attention to the Eastern front and regular bombing raids ceased. They began again, but on a smaller scale with the "Little Blitz" in early 1944. Towards the end of the war, during 1944/45 London again came under heavy attack by pilotless V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets, which were fired from Nazi occupied Europe. These attacks only came to an end when their launch sites were captured by advancing Allied forces.
London suffered severe damage and heavy casualties, the worst hit part being the Docklands area. By the war's end, just under 30,000 Londoners had been killed by the bombing, and over 50,000 seriously injured, tens of thousands of buildings were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless.
Three years after the war, the 1948 Summer Olympics were held at the original Wembley Stadium, at a time when the city had barely recovered from the war. London's rebuilding was slow to begin. However, in 1951 the Festival of Britain was held, which marked an increasing mood of optimism and forward looking.
Through the 19th and in the early half of the 20th century, Londoners used coal for heating their homes, which produced large amounts of smoke. In combination with climatic conditions this often caused a characteristic smog, and London became known for its typical "London Fog", also known as "Pea Soupers". London was sometimes referred to as "The Smoke" because of this. In 1952 this culminated in the disastrous Great Smog of 1952 which lasted for five days and killed over 4,000 people. In response to this, the Clean Air Act 1956 was passed, mandating the creating of "smokeless zones" where the use of "smokeless" fuels was required (this was at a time when most households still used open fires); the Act was effective.
Starting in the mid-1960s, and partly as a result of the success of such UK musicians as the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, London became a centre for the worldwide youth culture, exemplified by the Swinging London subculture which made Carnaby Street a household name of youth fashion around the world. London's role as a trendsetter for youth fashion was revived strongly in the 1980s during the new wave and punk eras. In the mid-1990s this was revived to some extent with the emergence of the Britpop era.
From the 1950s onwards London became home to a large number of immigrants, largely from Commonwealth countries such as Jamaica, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, which dramatically changed the face of London, turning it into one of the most diverse cities in Europe. However, the integration of the new immigrants was not always easy. Racial tensions emerged in events such as the Brixton Riots in the early 1980s.
In 2000, London-wide government was restored, with the creation of the Greater London Authority (GLA) by Tony Blair's government, covering the same area of Greater London. The new authority had similar powers to the old GLC, but was made up of a directly elected Mayor and a London Assembly. The first election took place on 4 May, with Ken Livingstone comfortably regaining his previous post. London was recognised as one of the nine regions of England. In global perspective, it was emerging as a World city widely compared to New York and Tokyo.