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Ian Stone, historian | History of London
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History of London

London’s Statues and Memorials: how should we remember and understand the past?

There has been, this year, more attention paid to the meaning and importance of monuments and statues in the public realm than in any year I can remember. While I would not say that the debate has always been constructive and reasoned, as someone interested in these material historical sources, I am glad that more of us are now thinking about the memorials which we...

Crisis in the Capital? Will London Survive Covid?

How many people live in London today? Simple question; complicated answer. What, for example, counts as London? Do we use an administrative measure, counting the number of people who live in each of the thirty-two boroughs and the City of London? Or should we imagine London as the geographic area contained within the M25? What of people who spend half their time in London and...

Fréteval 22 July 1170: King Henry II and Thomas Becket reconciled?

On this day, 850 years ago, in a meadow close to the village of Fréteval in the Touraine region of France, King Henry II of England and Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, two estranged friends, enjoyed a long private meeting. This by itself was quite an accomplishment. Just six weeks previously, Henry had crowned his son Henry, now known as the Young King, as co-monarch of England, in...

The Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor

On Brune Street, close to Spitalfields Market, is a building with the inscription ‘Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor’ engraved upon its cornice. In my latest YouTube video I explore the history of the building within the context of the Jewish history of east London. I also consider what the building’s current function can teach us about more recent developments in the East End.

King Henry III – an interview with Prof David Carpenter

Prof David Carpenter is a professor of medieval history at King’s College London. The first volume of his brilliant new biography of King Henry III (1216-72) has just been published in the Yale English Monarchs series. He joined me to discuss his book, Henry’s action-packed rule, his magnificent abbey of Westminster and his relations with the citizens of London. You can listen to the interview...

Who was Henry II?

‘He is great, indeed the greatest of monarchs, for he has no superior of whom he stands in awe, nor subject who may resist him’. So wrote Arnulf, bishop of Lisieux, to Thomas Becket in March 1165. The object of Arnulf’s praise was King Henry II (1154-89). True, no one would count Arnulf among the greatest thinkers and theologians of his age, but he was...

Who was Thomas Becket?

In my last blog we saw how, on 19 January 1170, an exasperated Pope Alexander III had given King Henry II of England forty days to end the quarrel with Thomas Becket, his archbishop of Canterbury. The threat to Henry was real enough: failure to comply would lead to an interdict being imposed across Henry’s extensive continental lands. A month beforehand, Becket had threatened to lay...

King Henry II and Thomas Becket: the beginnings of a reconciliation?

On this day 850 years ago, Pope Alexander III (1159-81), by now weary and exasperated with both King Henry II of England (1154-89) and Thomas Becket, Henry’s archbishop of Canterbury, issued letters which set out terms for a ‘form of peace’ between the two men. Becket had been in exile since 2 November 1164 following his clashes with Henry over the rights and liberties of...