London Geography

Medieval London was a compact settlement roughly one square mile in area, extending north of the Thames from the Tower to the boundary of Temple Bar in the west.  Even in modern times, the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor and corporation of London remained largely confined to this area, often termed the City, Butfrom the early seventeenth century the London metropolis began to expand well beyond its former limits, absorbing Westminster before 1640 and numerous smaller settlements to the north, east, south and west, by the early eighteenth century. when Defoe calculated the city's circumference at more than 36 miles.  Like all great cities, the London thereby became a patchwork of smaller neighborhoods with very different characteristics, ranging from the wealthy city squares of the West End, with their aristocratic residences, to the docklands along the Thames to the east and several industrial quarters in places like Spitalfields and Southwark.  The way in which people experienced London therefore depended very much on where they lived within this sprawling urban settlement. To understand London in this period we must begin by acquiring a sense of the city's human geography. 

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