London's Thames: The River That Shaped a City and Its History [NOOK Book]

Overview


Without the Thames, there would be no London. From earliest times, the city's needs--whether for stone, gold, or coal, for hay to feed livestock or food, wine and spices for human beings were supplied from the river, as the fierce tides brought ships upstream or carried them down again. Only with the age of trunk road and rail did London's global importance as a port diminish. Even after that the tides continued to drive the great power stations.
Gavin Weightman's fascinating ...
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London's Thames: The River That Shaped a City and Its History

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Overview


Without the Thames, there would be no London. From earliest times, the city's needs--whether for stone, gold, or coal, for hay to feed livestock or food, wine and spices for human beings were supplied from the river, as the fierce tides brought ships upstream or carried them down again. Only with the age of trunk road and rail did London's global importance as a port diminish. Even after that the tides continued to drive the great power stations.
Gavin Weightman's fascinating book, a compendium of often surprising information, is the best possible introduction to the water and its ways, the buildings that line the banks, and the people who lived by the river, their customs and ancient knowledge. Everything is to be found here: trade and tide, lightermen, watermen and dockers, bridges, funnels and ferries, frost fairs and regattas, clear water, fish and wildlife, pollution and waste, fortification and defense. Above all one feels the presence of the great waterway itself, a force of nature in our urban midst.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
There are many great cities situated on rivers, but none has been shaped so profoundly by its aquatic artery as London, or "London-on-Sea," as Weightman, a documentary filmmaker, author and expert on the city's history, wittily calls it. As he points out, the Thames is different from, say, the Seine, in that it is tidal in both directions, meaning that "a sailing ship could weigh anchor near the mouth of the Thames as the flood tide began, and for six hours it would be carried inland"; it could then "get a free ride back to sea on the ebb tide." For centuries, these powerful Thames tides helped the world's sailors provide an expanding London with the food and raw materials it craved. Given the modern predominance of the road and the airport, rivers may not be so important anymore to urban growth and commerce, but Weightman makes a persuasive case that the "strong brown God" (as T.S. Eliot dubbed it) continues to bestow on London its unique dynamism. Thanks to 25 concise chapters covering everything from the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race to sewers and bridges, Weightman's book makes an amiable companion for Londoners and tourists alike. B&w photos. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Weightman (The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story), who is also a documentary filmmaker, delivers a slim, entertaining act of devotion to the Thames and the city that has killed it, revived it, and grown around it. Embarking on a Thames trip through London's centuries, we begin with a river choked with boats, and a source of salmon and smelt before it became a public sewer. We see the river as an avenue of commerce, a major factor in public health, and part of England's social history. In his very readable book, in which most chapters run under nine pages, Weightman delivers thumbnail portraits from diverse points of view, mixing classic sources, anecdotes, and his own observations. Not scholarly, enough for academic collections, not large enough for coffee tables, this book will be useful for public collections with little on the Thames. It could spark further interest, in which case readers might seek out Jonathan Schneer's The Thames, which offers with a history of the river in a broader context.-Robert Moore, Bristol Myers Squibb Co., N. Billerica, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From Julius Caesar to the Millennium Wheel-a look at London's history with its storied river ever in the foreground. To say this is a brisk book is to understate the speed of its current. Many chapters-all aptly and generously illustrated-comprise fewer than 10 pages, and most summarize situations that other writers have found sufficient to fill sturdy volumes of cultural and riverine history, some of which appear in the bibliography. Weightman has a different agenda, however: He wishes to introduce us to the richness of his subject by offering slivers with the certain knowledge that the curious will proceed to the local library for more sizeable slices. The author, who demonstrated that ice is nice in his previous work (The Frozen Water Trade, 2003), sketches the history of the earliest settlements along the river (the Romans were looking for a crossing, not a site for a city), narrates the stories of London's many bridges (some of which, indeed, fell down), offers us snippets about the Great Fire and the infrequent frost fairs held on the frozen surface, tells the tales of some significant sites along the river, most notably St. Paul's and the Tower. He examines the cloacal function of the river through most of its history and notes that in the 1830s Londoners who drank city water were essentially consuming their own sewage. Although pollution prevented fish from living in the waters, clean-up activities over the past half-century have worked so well that some 120 species now swim by Parliament each day. Weightman offers snapshots, as well, of the Cambridge-Oxford rowing race, of early tunneling under the river, of the arrival of the railroads. Most eerily, he ends with a discussion ofthe dangers of catastrophic flooding, a threat that most Londoners ignore. A very appealing snack that whets the appetite for more substantial courses.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466862180
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author


GAVIN WEIGHTMAN is a documentary filmmaker, author, and well-known specialist on London.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Very interesting

    This is an insightful intriguing look at how the Thames River shaped London with its uncanny tides that enabled major shipping as they run in both directions. Dubbing the city as 'London-on-Sea' Gavin Weightman makes a strong case that it is the river that turned London into the great city it is. Mindful of Kornblum¿s AT SEA IN THE CITY: NEW YORK FROM THE WATER'S EDGE, Mr. Weightman gets very specific in supporting his theory with evidence from history and the present. Tidbits from Caesar to the Regency to Dickens and to the Millennium make for a fine time especially for those fascinated by what shaped a major urban area as well as for tourists and residents whether it is a odious dirty plunge into sewage, boat races, fish, floods, towers and bridges, etc. Numerous black and white photos enhance a picture of a city that ahs been around since the Romans founded Londinium as a military encampment in the first century. T.S. Eliot, who understood mighty rivers having been raised in St. Louis, summarizes the impact best in the Waste Land when he names the Thames as London¿s 'strong brown God' flowing and controlling much of the history of the city. This is a fascinating work that is fun to read over a few days.............. Harriet Klausner

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