The guilds of the Middle Ages gained control of civic affairs and grew sufficiently strong to restrict trade to freemen of the city. The guilds survive today in 80 livery companies, of which members were once the voters in London's municipal elections. Medieval London saw the foundation of the Inns of Court and the construction of Westminster Abbey. By the 14th cent. London had become the political capital of England. It played no active role in the Wars of the Roses (15th cent.).
In the 16th cent. many monastical buildings were destroyed or converted to other uses by Henry VIII, who founded several grammar schools for the poor. The reign of Elizabeth I brought London to a level of great wealth, power, and influence as the undisputed center of England's Renaissance culture. This was the time of Shakespeare and the beginnings of overseas trading companies such as the Muscovy Company. With the advent (1603) of the Stuarts to the throne, the city became involved in struggles with the crown on behalf of its democratic privileges, culminating in the English Civil War.
In 1665 the great plague took some 75,000 lives. A great fire in Sept., 1666, lasted five days and virtually destroyed the city. Sir Christopher Wren played a large role in rebuilding the city. He designed more than 51 churches, notably the rebuilt Saint Paul's Cathedral. Much of the business as well as literary and political discussion was transacted in coffeehouses, forerunners of the modern club. Until 1750, when Westminster Bridge was opened, London Bridge, first built in the 10th cent., was the only bridge to span the Thames. Since the 18th cent. several other bridges have been constructed.
In the 19th cent. London began a period of extraordinary growth. The area of present-day Greater London had about 1.1 million people in 1801; by 1851 the population had increased to 2.7 million, and by 1901 to 6.6 million. During the Victorian era London acquired tremendous prestige as the capital of the British Empire and as a cultural and intellectual center. Britain's free political institutions and intellectual atmosphere continued to make London a haven for persons unsafe in their own countries. The Italian Giuseppe Mazzini, the Russian Alexander Herzen, and the German Karl Marx were among many politically controversial figures who lived for long periods in London.
Many buildings of central London were completely destroyed or partially damaged in air raids during World War II. These include the Guildhall (scene of the lord mayor's banquets and other public functions); No. 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister's residence; the Inns of Court; Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament; St. George's Cathedral; and many of the great halls of the ancient livery companies. Today there are numerous blocks of new office buildings and districts of apartment dwellings constructed by the government authorities. The growth of London in the 20th cent. has been extensively planned. One notable feature has been the concept of a “Green Belt” to save certain areas from intensive urban development.
Birmingham is the city and county district (1991 pop. 934,900), West Midlands, central England. The city is equidistant from Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, and London, England's main ports, and near the Black Country iron and coal deposits; it is connected to the Staffordshire mines by the Birmingham Canal, built in the 18th cent. Birmingham is Britain's second-largest city (in both area and population) and is the center of water, road, and rail transportation in the Midlands. The chief industries are the manufacture of automobiles and bicycles and their components and accessories. Other products include electrical equipment, paint, guns, and a wide variety of metal products. By the 15th cent., Birmingham was a market town with a large leather and wool trade; by the 16th cent. it was also known for its many metalworks. In the English Civil War the town was captured by the royalists. Birmingham's industrial development and population growth accelerated in the 17th and 18th cent. In 1762, Matthew Boulton and James Watt founded the Soho metalworks, where they designed and built steam engines. Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, lived for a time in Birmingham. In 1791 a mob, incensed at his radical religious and political views, burned his home. The town was enfranchised by the Reform Bill of 1832 and was incorporated in 1838. John Bright represented it in Parliament from 1857 to 1889. During the 1870s, while Joseph Chamberlain was mayor, Birmingham underwent a large program of municipal improvements, including slum clearance and the development of gas and water works. Birmingham was among the first English localities to have a municipal bank, a comprehensive water-supply system, and development planning. The area of the city was enlarged in 1891 and again in 1911 under the Greater Birmingham scheme. Birmingham was severely damaged in World War II. Subsequent rebuilding has resulted in modernization, especially of the city center. Notable buildings include the town hall, built in 1834, modeled after the temple of Castor and Pollux in Rome; the 18th-century baroque-style Cathedral of St. Philip; and the 19th-century Cathedral of St. Chad, the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in England after the Reformation. Bull Ring, in the center of Birmingham, is the site of the city's oldest market. The city library includes an excellent Shakespeare collection. There is a museum and art gallery (noted for its pre-Raphaelite collection) and a museum of science and industry. Annual music festivals date from 1768. In the suburb of Edgbaston are the Univ. of Birmingham and the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a Roman Catholic shrine that was formerly the parish house of John Henry Cardinal Newman. In the center of the city is the Univ. of Aston.
Реферат опубликован: 21/11/2008