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5.0 von 5 Sternen The History of A City, The Lives of The People Who Made It, 4. Juli 2012
James Gallen (St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Johnson's Life of London (Gebundene Ausgabe)
A city has a life and a history to match its magnitude. Fortunately for London, and for us, it has a worthy chronicler of its march of heroes. Author and Lord Mayor, Boris Johnson, has put together this alluring book about The People Who Made the City That Made the World. Johnson provides brief biographies of the featured persons with a particular focus on the crucial role each played in the making of London. Some are familiar names of whom we learn more about their contributions to London and others are names we have never heard of but should.

From chapter to chapter we read of Boudica, the native woman whose attack convinced the Romans to reestablish their authority, Hadrian, the Emperor who made London the capitol of the province of Britain, Melitius, the Sixth Century missionary who brought Christianity back to London, and Alfred the Great, the Anglo-Saxon king who restored London only to have it taken by William the Conqueror who made his new city a center of trade.

A city is not built only of bricks and masonry. It needs a life of the mind, of arts and letters that was provided by the five of the subjects: Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, J. M. W. Turner and Keith Richards. What I found to be most interesting is the way that these chapters go beyond the artistic veneers to introduce the reader to the men behind the legends, those who contributed more to his city than is apparent to the general public.

Any great city needs money and two titans of finance are featured. The first is a London Giant about whom I had never heard, Richard Whittington, who made a fortune, served as mayor and endowed a foundation that, 600 years later, continues to support the needy in the city he helped shape. The other is Lionel Rothschild, the banker whose loans, among other things, enabled the purchase of the Suez Canal that enhanced England's the control of the seas. To be great a city needs innovators of new processes, new services and new businesses. Do you know anything about Robert Hooke, the inventor who drove London's technological advancement? We have all heard of Florence Nightingale, who strove to improve public health, but have you a clue as to how she did it? Have you ever heard of her collaborator in the Crimea, Mary Seacole, the mixed race nurse who placed herself in harm's way to nurse the wounded to health? Are you familiar with W.T. Stead, the inventor of the tabloid journalism that crafts headlines and molds societies? If not open this book and get to know them.

For me the biggest surprise was the chapter on John Wilkes. I thought that he must have been an actor, like his namesake John Wilkes Booth, but I now know differently. John Wilkes was a parliamentarian who defended the liberty of the commoners against the tyranny of the establishment, a worthy role model for any American.

Of course no history of London is complete without a mention of the man who stood at the head in the face of the Blitz and led them to victory in World War II, Winston Churchill. Johnson gives his readers a more multi-faceted view of Churchill, showing not only the great wartime leader, but also the domestic innovator who put into place much of the social safety net on which Britons rely.

I hope that I have given you enough detail to whet your appetite for more and there is plenty more here. Okay, it is a great story of a London that rises and falls and is rising again, but how is it told you ask? This well researched tome is written in a light hearted, clever and thoroughly entertaining style. Perhaps the secret to this book is that it is told by a man who loves his city, who can see its history in its buildings, who feel it on its streets and who can make it flow from his pen. I give "5" ratings sparingly, but "Johnson's Life of London" cannot be denied.
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Johnson's Life of London
Johnson's Life of London von Boris Johnson (Audio CD - 17. November 2011)
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