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This article covers the history of Londonmarker from the Norman conquest of England in 1066 to the 1500s.

Norman invasion

The Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 is usually considered to be the beginning of the Medieval period. William, Duke of Normandy, killed English king Harold Godwinson in the Battle of Hastingsmarker. Having conquered Hampshire and Kentmarker, William and his army turned to London. Having failed to cross London bridgemarker at Southwarkmarker, William's army marched clockwise around London and waited to the north-west at Berkhamstedmarker. Where, having realised that resistance was pointless, a delegation from London arrived to surrender the city, and recognise William as King. William soon granted a charter for London in 1067 which upheld previous Saxon rights, privileges and laws
Under William (now known as William the Conqueror) several royal forts were constructed along the riverfront of London (the Tower of Londonmarker, Baynard's Castlemarker and Montfichet's Castlemarker) to defend against seaborne attacks by Vikings and prevent rebellions. Its growing self-government became firm with election rights granted by King John in 1199 and 1215.

Developments

In 1097 William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror began the construction of 'Westminster Hall'. The hall was to become the basis of the Palace of Westminstermarker which, throughout the Medieval period, was the prime royal residence.

In 1176 construction began of the most famous incarnation of London Bridgemarker (completed in 1209) which was built on the site of several earlier wooden bridges. This bridge would last for 600 years, and remained the only bridge across the River Thames until 1739.

War and revolt

May 1216 saw the last time that London was truly occupied by a continental armed force, during the First Barons' War. This was when the young Louis VIII of France marched through the streets to St Paul's Cathedralmarker. Throughout the city and in the cathedral he was celebrated as the new ruler.

It was expected that this would free the English from the tyranny of King John. This was only temporarily true. The barons supporting the 29-year old French prince decided to throw their support back to an English king when John died. Over the next several hundred years, London would shake off the heavy French cultural and linguistic influence which had been there since the times of the Norman conquest. The city, like Dovermarker, would figure heavily into the development of Early Modern English.

During the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 led by Wat Tyler, London was invaded. A group of peasants stormed the Tower of Londonmarker and executed the Lord Chancellor, Archbishop Simon Sudbury, and the Lord Treasurer. The peasants looted the city and set fire to numerous buildings. Tyler was stabbed to death by the Lord Mayor William Walworth in a confrontation at Smithfieldmarker, thus ending the revolt.

During the Wars of the Roses there was strong support in London for the Yorkist cause. The Lancastrian Henry VI was forced to leave London for the Midlands in 1456 due to hostile attitudes in the capital. He was later captured and kept for five years in the Tower of London. London was eventually captured by the Yorkist Edward IV in 1471, and Henry executed. Thus bringing the wars to an end.
London in 1300.


Capital of England

In the early Middle Ages, England had no fixed capital per se; Kings moved from place to place taking their court with them. The closest thing to a capital was Winchestermarker where the royal treasury and financial records were stored. This changed from about 1200 when these were moved to Westminstermarker. From this point on, Royal government became increasingly centred upon Westminster, which steadily became the de facto capital.

In the Middle Ages, Westminster was a small town up river from the City of London. From the 13th century onwards London grew up in two different parts. Westminster became the Royal capital and centre of government, whereas the City of Londonmarker became the centre of commerce and trade, a distinction which is still evident to this day. The area between them became entirely urban by 1600.

Trade and commerce

Trade and commerce grew steadily during the Middle Ages, and London grew rapidly as a result. In 1100 London's population was little more than 15,000. By 1300 it had grown to roughly 80,000. Trade in London was organised into various guilds, which effectively controlled the city, and elected the Lord Mayor of London.

Fire and plague

Medieval London was made up of narrow and twisting streets, and most of the buildings were made from combustible materials such as wood and straw, which made fire a constant threat. Sanitation in London was poor. London lost at least half of its population during the Black Death in the mid-14th century. Between 1348 and the Great Plague of 1666 there were sixteen outbreaks of plague in the city.

References

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