London is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom, and the most populous city in the European Union.
London is one of the world's major business, political and cultural centres. It is a leader in international finance, politics, communications, entertainment, fashion and the arts and has considerable influence worldwide. It is widely regarded as one of the world's major global cities, and has been an important settlement for nearly 2000 years.
London has an estimated population of 8 million (as of 2011metropolitan area population of between 12 and 14 million. London has an extremely cosmopolitan population, drawing from a diverse range of peoples, cultures and religions, speaking over 300 different languages. Residents of London are referred to as Londoners.
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The city is an international transport hub and a major tourist destination, counting iconic landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace amongst its many attractions, along with famous institutions such as the British Museum and the National Gallery.
London has three main central business districts: the City of London, the West End in Westminster and Canary Wharf in Docklands. The City of London is the largest financial and business district in Europe.
Gray's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, an individual must belong to one of these Inns. Located at the intersection of High Holborn and Gray's Inn Road, the Inn is both a professional body and a place of living and office accommodation (chambers) for many barristers. It is ruled by a governing council called "Pension", made up of the Masters of the Bench (or "Benchers"), and led by the Treasurer, who is elected to serve a one-year term. The Inn is known for its gardens, or Walks, which have existed since at least 1597. Gray's Inn does not claim a specific foundation date; there is a tradition that none of the Inns of Court claims to be any older than the others. Law clerks and their apprentices have been established on the present site since at least 1370, with records dating from 1391. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Inn grew steadily, reaching its pinnacle during the reign of Elizabeth I. The outbreak of the First English Civil War in 1642 during the reign of Charles I disrupted the systems of legal education and governance at the Inns of Court, shutting down all calls to the Bar and new admissions, and Gray's Inn never fully recovered. Fortunes continued to decline after the English Restoration, which saw the end of the traditional method of legal education. Although now more prosperous, Gray's Inn is still the smallest of the Inns of Court. (more...)
Jack Sheppard was a notorious robber, burglar and thief of early 18th-century London. Born into a poor family, he was apprenticed as a carpenter but took to theft and burglary in 1723, with little more than a year of his training to complete. He was arrested and imprisoned five times in 1724 but escaped four times, making him a notorious public figure, and wildly popular with the poorer classes. Ultimately, he was caught, convicted, and hanged at Tyburn, ending his brief criminal career after less than two years. The inability of the noted "Thief-Taker General" (and thief) Jonathan Wild to control Sheppard, and injuries suffered by Wild at the hands of Sheppard's colleague, Joseph "Blueskin" Blake, led to Wild's downfall. Sheppard was as renowned for his attempts to escape justice as for his crimes. He returned to the public consciousness in around 1840, when William Harrison Ainsworth wrote a novel entitled Jack Sheppard, with illustrations by George Cruikshank. The popularity of his tale, and the fear that others would be drawn to emulate his behaviour, led the authorities to refuse to license any plays in London with "Jack Sheppard" in the title for forty years.