The Romans founded Londinium (now called London) in 43 AD. This artist's illustration of Londinium in 200 AD shows the city's first bridge over the Thames River.
Westminster Abbey, founded in the 10th century, is a World Heritage Site and one of London's oldest and most important buildings. Here it is in a 1749 painting.
By the 11th century, London had the largest port in England.
In the 12th century, the English royal court began to grow in size and sophistication, and settled in Westminster, a neighborhood in central London.
In 1176, King Henry II commissioned a new stone bridge. Finished in 1284, the original London Bridge would stand for over 600 years. It supported homes and shops — which weighed down its arches over time.
The development of the printing press in the early 15th century made news available to the entire city and improved literacy levels. Coffeehouses also became popular spots for friendly debates.
In the 17th century, London suffered from the Great Plague, which killed about 100,000 people. In 1666, the Great Fire broke out; it took the city a decade to rebuild.
The city became a major hub for trade throughout the 1700s, and the Port of London expanded downstream.
During the Georgian era (from 1714 to 1830), new districts like Mayfair formed, and new bridges over the Thames encouraged development in South London.
In the mid-19th century, London overtook Amsterdam as the Europe's leading financial center ...
... and the Royal Navy became the world's leading military fleet.
London was the largest city in the world from 1831 until 1925, when New York City superseded it.
The growing population and increased traffic led to the creation of the world's first local, underground urban rail network in the late 1860s.
King George VI started his reign in 1936. Here's a photo of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II at 13 years old, in 1939:
WWII devastated London starting in 1941. As seen below, civilians hid in underground train stations to get away from air raids, which killed approximately 30,000 Londoners by the war's end. The city then slowly began to rebuild itself.
Starting in the mid-1960s, London became a global center for fashion, music, and art.
The city has maintained its place as a center of global power ...
... and today, over 8.6 million people reside there.