chapter  7
14 Pages

London: The Contradictory Capital

ByDennis Hardy

London at the end of the twentieth century was, in many ways, a very different city from that which witnessed the ending of the Victorian era. When Queen Victoria died, in 1901, after a reign of sixty-four years, London was in every sense an imperial capital. Britain ruled a vast empire that included great swathes of territory on every continent except Antarctica, with a population of more than 400 million people, and London was at the heart of it.1 At the late Queen’s funeral, representatives were brought from all parts of this far-fl ung Empire to march behind the coffi n, brightening the streets of the capital with their exotic costumes and skins of every hue. For many of the onlookers this was the fi rst time they had seen non-white races, other than in books recounting the exploits of missionaries and explorers.