London - A TALE OF TWO CITIES 3: The Pull of Power

Season 1, Ep. 3

In this walk, we explore how the cities of London and Westminster birthed the first global city. In this episode, how Westminster grew from a monastery to the centre of a post-imperial state. 

We wind our way through Westminster, starting in Victoria Embankment Gardens, by the river, and ending up in Parliament Square. We learn how a small monastery became the kernel of a royal court, which eventually moved a bit north, to Whitehall, and became a fount of fashion and favours. We also see how it was constrained by Parliament, which occupied its former palace, and gradually pushed aside. And how the state scrambled to direct and finance wars, from the middle of the second millennium, to administer empire in the 19th century, and eventually, slowly, to provide some welfare to the population of the now United Kingdom. Westminster tells the story of how power was first accumulated and reluctantly shared; how governments remain in thrall to the imperial past and reluctant to face the post-industrial present; and how its subjects have nonetheless managed to carve out some space to have their say.

This series was produced in collaboration with the Institute of Historical Research. Find out more at: layersoflondon.org

Click here for the map and full transcript.

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PRODUCER: Jelena Sofronijevic

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