article covers the history of London
from the Norman conquest of
England in 1066 to the 1500s.
The Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 is usually considered to be
the beginning of the Medieval
William, Duke of Normandy, killed English king
Harold Godwinson in the Battle of
Hastings. Having conquered Hampshire and Kent, William and
his army turned to London. Having failed to cross London bridge at Southwark, William's army marched clockwise around London and
waited to the north-west at Berkhamsted.
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
rights, privileges and laws
William (now known as William the Conqueror) several royal forts
were constructed along the riverfront of London (the Tower of London, Baynard's
Castle and Montfichet's Castle) to defend against seaborne attacks by Vikings and
self-government became firm with election
rights granted by King John
In 1097 William Rufus
, the son of
William the Conqueror began the construction of 'Westminster Hall'.
was to become the basis of the Palace of Westminster which, throughout the Medieval period, was the
prime royal residence.
construction began of the most famous incarnation of London Bridge (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
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 Cathedral.
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
Dover, would figure heavily into the development of
During the Peasants' Revolt
led by Wat Tyler
, London was invaded.
of peasants stormed the Tower of London and executed the Lord
Chancellor, Archbishop Simon
Sudbury, and the Lord
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 Smithfield, thus ending the revolt.
During the Wars of the Roses
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.
closest thing to a capital was Winchester where the royal treasury and financial records were
stored. This changed from about 1200 when these were
moved to Westminster.
From this point on, Royal government became
increasingly centred upon Westminster, which steadily became the
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 London became the centre of commerce and trade, a
distinction which is still evident to this day.
between them became entirely urban
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
of 1666 there were sixteen outbreaks of plague
in the city.