London is the capital city of the United Kingdom, founded some two thousand years ago by the Romans, and home to tribes for time immemorial before that.
There are around 7,000 miles of street in London, and approximately seven million people live in it. (In 1631, the population, according to a census taken, including the wards without the walls and the old borough of Southwark, was only 130,268.)
It is the home to the country's government, in the Houses of Parliament, and the vestiges of royalty, in the [palaces]?. Its numerous locales are home to a bewildering diversity of cultures. Unsurprisingly, its wealth of attractions make it the country's biggest tourist magnet.
Over the years, people have had a lot to say about it.
London is one of the nine regions of England and consists of an ancient nucleus, the City of London - now the main business district - and a "Greater London" area made up of 32 London boroughs.
The definition of the boundary of London can be a rather vexing one. There's the old City of London, the Square Mile, which is (as the name suggests) tiny. Although once a residential and business area, very few people are resident there anymore and most of the 8,000 population are concentrated in the Barbican complex. By day the population swells to 300,000.
Moving along to the west and down [Fleet Street]?, there's a sister city and home to our nation's government; the [City of Westminster]?, centered around the [Palace of Westminster]? and [Westminster Abbey]? on the north bank of the River Thames.
Most of the West End is in the City of Westminster, including the [Eleanor Cross]? outside Charing Cross Station which is taken as the most central position in London and used for all distance calculations from the capital. The Romans used a stone placed on [Cannon Street]? in the City - the "[London Stone]?" - to measure their distances, but by Victorian times the focus of London had moved steadily westward.
Moving further out in each direction, there's possibly the most modern boundary line used for central London; the ring of the Congestion Charging zone, following the [Inner Ring Road]?, although it is due to expand westward in February 2007. At a similar distance is the [Zone 1]? boundary, as defined by Transport for London, which can be seen on the Central London Bus Map and is roughly the same as the area within the Circle Line plus the nearer reaches of South London. Most of London's [tourist attractions]? are within this boundary.
Transport-based definitions of London continue through the various Tube zones, all the way out to zone 6, which we'll get to later, and the two outer ring roads, the pair of the North and [South Circular]? Roads and the M25 London Orbital Motorway.
Inner London is the part of London that was prior to 1965 in the County of London. This area is irregular and includes Greenwich and Wandsworth but does not include Ealing, Haringey or Newham.
Somewhere around the distance of the Tube's [Zone 4]?, perhaps nine miles from Charing Cross, there's a ragged edge where postcodes are no longer one of London's letters (EC and WC for the two cities; E, N, NW, SW and SE), but instead are those of local centres, like Ilford.
Finally, perhaps the most authoratitive boundary for London is that of the GLA, which coincides almost exactly (unsurprisingly, given the GLA's transport remit) with that of the edge of [Zone 6]?, and is close to the [Green Belt]?. All people living within this boundary vote for the Mayor, a GLA assembly member, live in a local authority that's typically a London Borough although those on the fringes, especially those who migrated from central London during the housing shortages after the World War II only to witness London's borders expand to encompas them again, might not consider themselves Londoners anymore. Despite the economic influence of the capital throughout the south-east, this remains a sensible cut-off point for the city and varies in distance from Charing Cross from about 12 to 16 miles.
To confuse matters further, stations on the Central Line beyond [Woodford]? are in the Epping Forest district of Essex, and not in London, but get included in the zone system. Stations beyond Moor Park on the Metropolitan Line are also outside London. A handful of National Rail stations just outside the Greater London boundary also get included in Zone 6.
The M25 forms a tangible final boundary for London and the Greater London boundary has been aligned to it in places. For some purposes, such as regionalised marketing offers, the area within the M25 is London. Watford is the largest center of population to be within the M25 but not part of Greater London and the small village of [North Ockendon]? is the only anomaly to be outside the M25 but included in the Greater London area.
London's local government
The concept of the greater London area (i.e., an area bigger than the Square Mile) first came about as part of the local government reorganisation of 1888 when the [County of London]? was created. Prior to this, administration of London was divided between the City of London and the [City of Westminster]?. All places outside this area were part of the county of Middlesex north of the Thames, Surrey or Kent south of Thames and Essex east of the Lee. An unelected [Metropolitan Board of Works]? carried out major works like building the sewerage system.
In 1965 the County of London and Middlesex were abolished and the modern Greater London created, effectively being made up of all parishes of which any part is within twelve miles of Charing Cross, or of which the whole is within fifteen miles of Charing Cross, covering in total some 700 square miles and broadly matching the metropolitan police district and made up of most of Middlesex and parts of Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire.
In 1996 the area of the City of London plus Greater London became one of the nine regions of England, fittingly called London.