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Ian Stone, historian | History of London
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History of London Tag

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW5NshyGh3g...

The Coronation of Henry the Young King

In my last blog on the dispute between King Henry II and Thomas Becket, we saw how formidable a character Henry was. He had, by the age of twenty-one, assumed power in territories which stretched from Hadrian’s Wall in the north to the Pyrenees in the south and, throughout his reign, he impressed friend and foe alike with his energy and intelligence. His ascent to the throne...

David Carpenter, Henry III 1207-1258 (Yale University Press, 2020)

For over thirty years, as part of its ‘English Monarchs Series’ exploring the history of the ‘longest permanent governing institution in Europe’, Yale University Press has published biographies of English kings and queens. These books are rightly considered to offer not only the best and fullest biographies of the men and women who have occupied the throne of England, but also a window through which...

Finding the Traces of London’s Huguenots

Angers is a pretty, prosperous city in the province formerly known as Anjou in western France. Unlike Cologne, Antwerp or Amsterdam, it is not a city which one immediately connects with the history of London. True, for a brief period in the Middle Ages, three kings of England, Henry II, Richard I and John were also the counts of Anjou, but there is little evidence...

The Restoration of Canterbury Cathedral

‘While Thomas lives you will have neither peace nor quiet nor see good days’. We know not who supposedly uttered these words to King Henry II (1154-89) about his troublesome archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket (d. 1170), but whoever it was, they had arguably more perspicacity than the two protagonists themselves. Henry was one of England’s greatest monarchs. He was a man filled with seemingly...

The Mayor, the King, and the Conditions of Loyalty

‘Lord, as long as you are willing to be a good king and lord to us, we will be faithful and devoted to you.’ With these words, on 17 March 1265, Thomas fitz Thomas, a draper and mayor of London, told the king of England to his face that the Londoners’ loyalty to him as their king was conditional on his proving himself as a good...

Samuel Pepys and the Plague of 1665

At the end of each month, Samuel Pepys, the great diarist, was wont to take stock of his affairs. Anyone who has read Pepys’s diary cannot help but be struck by his invariable cheerfulness on these occasions. His entry for 30 April 1665, 354 years ago today, was typical of the man: ‘thus I end the month: in great content as to my estate and...

The Thomas Sutton Memorial in Charterhouse Chapel

There is an extraordinary memorial to Thomas Sutton (1532-1611) in the Charterhouse Chapel at Smithfield in London. Standing twenty-five feet high, and thirteen feet wide, it dominates the north aisle of the Chapel. Sutton founded the Charterhouse in 1611 as both a school and as an almshouse and hospital for up to eighty inmates. While the school has moved to Surrey, the almshouse remains and its residents are...