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London Reviews

London by Phil Baker

London: City of Cities

Phil Baker

Score pending

1 review

Category: History, Non-fiction, Travel
Imprint: Reaktion Books
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication date: 12 Apr 2021
ISBN: 9781789142181

An informative, witty and concise account of London's past, and its present.

4 stars out of 5
22 May 2021

"From prehistoric hippopotamuses to high-rise towers, the development of an awe-inspiring metropolis is captured with depth and detail"

London: City of Cities is a stylish, glossy hardback with lavish colour illustration. Baker’s acknowledgements section features the usual admission that it may contain errors despite his best efforts. There are, alas, enough here to merit a warning. Baker repeats the false etymology that Charing Cross derives from the French chère reine; the name long predates the moment when Edward I erected a cross there in memory of his dear queen Eleanor. That king expelled Britain’s Jews in 1290, not 1291. An estimated 66 people died in the Balham tube disaster during the blitz, not 600. The winged statue commemorating Lord Shaftesbury at Piccadilly Circus is not shooting an arrow into the ground in a “shaft burying” visual pun – the sculptor, Alfred Gilbert, dismissed that myth. There are others besides. Approach this book like one of the long solitary walks through the city it describes: enjoy its spirit and energy, be captivated by its curiosities, remember to remain alert.