The city of London has gone through thick and thin. It has weathered civil wars, incineration, and heavy bombardments to a point of annihilation but it still stands as one of the most important cultural and economic center in the world. It has had a rich history dating to close to two millennia. A history that still continues to shape current events and experiences. According to ancient scholars London is a product of Brutus of Troy, the legendary first great king of Britain. Since its foundation, it has come to grow magnificently and become a center of attraction as well as influence. The challenges and hallmarks of London as one of the most sung about city in the world especially in the 20th century can only be highlighted and underscored by taking a journey through time, a journey through the smooth and rough memory lane that will reveal much about the predominant events in this city.
I recall a number of events that happened in this year.
1. February 1900,labor party formation.
2. 24th April, launching the daily express
3. May 17th,Relief of Mafeking
4. July, launching of Pan African Conference
The year is 1900 and the date is 24th April. Today is an important day, not because it is a hallmark in my career but because a very important event that will shape the destiny of my career is underway. I am a journalist, though still of modest experience. I have had no major writing or reporting experience but have made some notable contributions to some articles in the leading newspapers. However, today is the day that my career is being crowned. My first own column is hitting the street at the moment along with the launch of the vehicle of my career; The Daily Express. My future understanding of culture, economics and politics would be viewed from a journalistic point of view (Jonathan S., 1999).
Being a journalist, you are charged with a very honorable responsibility and position. You are among the few to get the information as it happens and report it, as you believe it happened. London in 1900 still stands beautiful and the population is slowly picking. At the turn of the century, it has clocked close to 6 million though still of modest development, it still looks breathtaking adorned with various important facilities that other cities in the world only dream of. Electricity lighting, good elaborate communication network, use of telephones and other technologies that make sure that the sun does not in any way set in London, a truly imperial metropolis.
It is at the height of colonial imperialism and people are voicing their concerns for or against the appropriateness of imperialism and the expansion of the empire especially in Africa. There are those too that don’t know what this imperialism is all about and it is my role as a journalist to inform them. A look at the events of 1900 reveals that it is a year full of railroad of activities. I remember reporting on the formation of the labor party on one morning of February 1900. A party formed by the coming together of over 65 trade unions. It will be a vehicle through which the workers union would be represented in parliament. The year 1900 is characterized by call of class struggle with the upper income class that has formed the ruling political elite is being accused of pursuing sectarian policies that do not guarantee the workers welfare. This party however seems to be headed places as it enjoys large-scale support mostly from the mid and lower income earners. I am one of them and I am passionately watching as these political events unfold.
I have come to note that although I don’t earn much compared to my friends in the banking or the legal industry, my earnings can go along way in making my life comfortable. If the public responds to my column positively and my editor is happy, my bank account increases with some huge bonuses.
Life is not that bad especially as the transport system in London gets a face-lift. Reporting to work and moving around gathering news is becoming less challenging even as the street becomes more and more crowded.
And talking of the increasing population, I have never witnessed such a bigger crowd before as the one that has congregated today, on May 17th 1900, to celebrate the relief of Mafeking (Jonathan S., 1999)
I have never seen also such a rampant, reckless spending and rowdy celebrations. Was I not aware of the story behind Mafeking, I would have thought people have gone crazy. The Mafeking relief has emanated form the withdrawal of the Boer troops from the town of Mafeking in South Africa. A concerted British effort by the pioneer of scouting Robert Baden –Powell, to defend Mafeking has been raging on for 31 weeks before the Boers could give up. There is a frenzy of activities in the streets of London as news start to trickle in about that win. I had earlier in the day run such a story on that morning, tentatively though, as it was not yet official. At the moment I am on the street gathering news first hand, news on the extravagance being displayed on our streets and also as a new term is being coined into the English language. The street is packed with smart men and women in a celebratory mood. Wearing a black three-piece suit, pointed shoes, white shirt that is neatly starched and pressed, a symbolic cane and a hat to crown the event. This is the dress code at this age and I can also see some women in trousers although majority is in long dresses and straw hats. The event is big and can be confused with a national holiday.
Despite the imperial activities going on abroad and the debate ranging here at home, as I sometimes run in my column on the acquisitions and their implications. London as I can note is becoming increasingly metropolitan and liberal in approach. With the rise in the economy, there is an influx of bankers, doctors, accountants, and investors coming in daily from the rest of Britain. They have heard of the investment potentials of London with a beauty that cannot be surpassed.
Civil movements as I sometimes note in my column are simply beginning to take root in the midst of a culture of discrimination based on color and gender. A look at the structure of social organization reveals that we as white interact only with our own and try to demonize and dehumanize other races, especially the blacks and the Indians.
In the midst of this racial confusion I dare not raise a finger or indicate that the practice is in any way unfair, this is because I don’t believe that such an article can go beyond my editor. My focus is on people lifestyles and it rarely goes into politics. It is less emotion and if it touches on politics it is only on a lighter note. However, I have much admiration for my fellow journalist, particularly one lady Flora Show working with the Times. She is courageously vocal in speaking against the rampant discrimination against the blacks in London. Many however, I can tell, do not agree with her position although they know that blacks and Indians are at a disadvantage.
Still on discrimination, I note with interest the developments in the formation of the Pan African Movement hallmarked by the Pan African Conference of 1900, convened by Mr. Henry Sylvester Williams. This is a conference meant to establish a movement that is to be championing for the rights of all Africans in the world. I am in attendance and exceptionally impressed by the moving speeches of the conveners. I have taken note of African phrases that I can incorporate in my day-to-day column.
Looking back at the events that I have gone through this year, I can say it has been a fulfilling year.
Dominant events for this year are:
1.May 8th, VE day
2.July, forces start coming home
3.July 26th, Atlee succeeds Churchill as the new prime minister
1945 is like nothing I have come across yet. It is a year that will remain embedded in my mind for the rest of my life. The ruins, the bombardments, crumbling houses alongside many others that characterize my stay in White Chapel, London. I am working as a journalist in the now old Daily Express. It is hard and the peanuts I receive hardly get me by through the rationing. Life in White Chapel is becoming increasingly rough, but it is the situation everywhere; Hitler’s bombardments are giving us no peace. I look at the crumbling house that I call home and I am left shuddering; my two friends still nursing wounds from the war do not help improve the situation. The space is limited, gas is limited in supply and the lighting system has been interfered with. The place is so dimly lit.
One side of the offices of Daily Express has been torn away by Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 bombs. I sleep in a crumbling house and spend the day in a shaky office reading sad stories of death and correspondence that makes me sick. Everybody seems to be crying and if the war does not come to an end anytime soon, the fabric that holds Britain close together will gradually give way. I have seen dead men and watched men dying and I am beyond a breaking point. I don’t find satisfaction in my work anymore. How can I with deadly bombs dropping from the sky like manna from heaven only this time with devastating effects (Maureen W., 2005).
The government seems to stand and watch helplessly. Our army barracks are empty as our soldiers and volunteers are in the filed too dodging Hitler’s bombs. Any indication that the allied forces are making headway is received with jubilations however small such a hope is. My column too is filled with messages of hope, a hope that I myself doubt.
Journalism has changed and is no longer an expression of free speech but is an expression of the governments wish. I see the nation is crumbling, war criminals are running all over, people are dying of hunger and the existing bureaucracy is not helping either. But I can’t dare raise a word; the government does not want to see any negative prints. It does not want us to tell the Londoners the truth. We have too become a propaganda tool. To counter Hitler and win the war, propaganda has to be met with propaganda and bombs with bombs. It is censorship at its worst peak, but it goes further to accomplish a good cause; Britain has to be pulled close together.
Evacuations too have become the order of the day. Women and children are the worst victims; they are at the receiving end and they have to rely on the forces for evacuation. Coaches are lined up in the local schools and families with huge suitcases are queuing for spaces in the bus.
We are in February of 1945 and Hitler has not yet given up with London. The war in the rest of Europe has intensified. London looks terribly and extremely devastated and some towns’ looks like ghost empty shells. It is scary because you never know where the bombs might hit next. I am scared beyond a point of caring. It might get me in the office, at home or in the field while I am gathering information through interviews. Not an hour passes by before a building has been razed to the ground or before some people have gone missing only to be retrieved dead or alive in the bottom of debris. I have grown tired of writing about the devastation of the war and I am starting to look for any flicker of any positive side that I can write about, sometimes with gross exaggeration to increase the hope and faith in our government. People have to stay united either way.
Not all about this year is awful though. There are some positive developments that I take note of with amusement. The public and especially the women are becoming highly liberalized. I understand that before this war kicked off, our women had been relegated to the position of housewives. However, as I can see, this is changing and changing real fast. Men have gone into the war and the ladies have been left to take care of the crumbling nation and children. This new responsibility has left our ladies yearning for a break away from the bondage and the yoke of societal norms. They are surviving without men and doing so fairly well. A feminism movement is on the rise and is a wave that I am sure will take men by surprise. Single mothers having lost their husbands and boyfriends to the war have to survive anyway. I am faced with overwhelming correspondence from both critics and supporters especially from London women. From what I can read from the letters I can tell that this feminism wave is rather strong.
The war is gradually coming to an end. We are in July 1945. The forces are slowly returning home to find shattered dusty buildings and untraceable families. As a journalist I am faced with an uphill of a task trying to reconnect families and communicate messages of hope to a devastated population. But I am encouraged by the renewed vigor I can discern from the eyes of the public, the aftermath of the bombings and the war not withstanding. I can see their rededication towards national reconstruction with a zeal that can only be described as amazing (Brown, M. 2000).
May 8th 1945 represents an important day not only here in London or Britain but in the whole of Europe. It is after a concerted effort that had kicked off in France where Nazi was being driven out of Europe, by the allied forces. People are allover the street no matter how devastated they are and I can tell that they are celebrating the rebirth of the nation. Dressed in a dark blue suit and a large overcoat, I am also in Whitehall where Winston Churchill is announcing officially the victory of the allied forces against the Third Reich. A mammoth crowd fills the place and I am also beside myself with joy. I don’t expect things to change overnight but things have to change somehow. I am tired and everyone is fed up of the rationing and the long queues. We are hoping that with the end of the war, rationing of clothes will come to an end. I am tired of surviving with my old suits and would want a change and a complete overhaul of my wardrobe (Mann, J., 2006).
Despite the celebrations marking the VE Day and the heroic triumph of Winston Churchill in the war, the situation is to later change in the political scene. Going through the correspondence in my office reveals that people are increasingly becoming distrustful of the Churchill administration. This is surprising to many. The elections are to be held in a few weeks time after we have celebrated VE and I am almost certain that the conservative party will loose to Labor party. True to this, come the lections, labor party emerges victorious and Clement Atlee becomes the Prime Minister. I can tell however that despite the party leadership change, rationing of food will continue and it will take time before things can improve.
An analysis of London in 1900 and 1945 reveals that they city is more than different. Different in terms of the dominant events and also in the political scene. It would seem to me that life in 1900 was a bit better and easier than in 1945. The world war two has brought with it human suffering, food and clothes shortage, personal insecurity and many others. These were non-existent in 1900, by then London looked uninhabited and on the verge of an economic boom, beautiful sceneries and imperialism was ripe in the air. Now the city looks devastated and ravaged to the brink of destruction. However, the new political dispensation and the hope for reconstruction is an indication that the worst is over and London is ready to reclaim its lost past glory.
1. Remarkable events for this year are:
2. May 17,2007,brown accepts labor party nominations
3. June 26th 2007,Blair resigns as prime minister and Gordon Brown takes over.
4. June 30th 2007, Glasgow International Airport terror attack
London in 2007 has changed dramatically, there are no tell tale signs of the second world war and is not anything close to what was there in 1900. In 107 years, London has been transformed drastically. The social, economic and political aspect of London has changed. My life too has changed and so has my work as a journalist. I have to contend with writing a column that is supposed to serve the London population of close to seven million. London looks overcrowded today and is still one of the largest metropolitan inhabited by people of diverse backgrounds; it consequently is the most populated city in Europe.
Still working in the same old Daily Express but with an ever-tight schedule nowadays to a point that my social life is almost non-existent. My column is more liberal and controversial as ever. I have come to note that controversy sells. I live in Bloomsbury, just behind the University College Hospital. It is an affluent location place but I am also making good money out of my work and my part time media consultancy and public relations. In London today almost everyone is yearning for attention and those that have that media attention want to maximize and lock out any negative publicity. Paparazzi are big and influential in exposing all manner of controversial scandals mostly those that revolves around love. Pop culture has taken root in London and celebrities have earned an almost revered position.
So much has happened in this year but nothing has had devastating effects. I recall with interest having noted in my column, about the end of the former British Prime Minister’s political career coming to an end and that has come to pass. Tony Blair made this error in judgment and decided to join forces with the United States president George Bush in attacking Iraq. A decision that has come to cost him his face in politics, he has had to resign after much pressure from his counterparts in the Labor party. This issue has drawn much controversy in my column. I believe that Tony Blair misled our parliament into believing that the Saddam regime possessed weapons of mass destruction and was a real threat to our key ally, the United States. I attended his resignation press conference in June and I witnessed the standing ovation as the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown took office to replace the Tony Blair reign on the Britain’s hottest seat in the 10th Downing Street (Mark R. O., 2007).
I can’t help but marvel at how lifestyles in London have changed, the old gentlemanly and ladylike Victorian traditions are rarely visible. I dress casually most of the time, adorning a T-shirt with some funny graffiti and a pair of jeans. I wear suits only when attending important meetings. I have not been able to eat from inside my house for long as most of the times I am rushing towards something. I eat from the first food joint or grab a quick meal form Bacchus alongside other Britons. Like the rest of the Londoners, almost a third of my salary goes towards servicing restaurant bills. Britons in the Second World War especially the rich picked this culture as I have come to note.
All has not been well this year, there are some instances that have sacred us as Londoners. The issue of terrorism still remains ripe in our mind. I had noted earlier in my column of the insecurity scare emanating from the renewed activities of terrorists in the world. London has been a victim of terror attack before. On June 30th 2007, terrorists struck at Glasgow International Airport, though there were no serious fatalities it was a scary scene. For a long time in my life, I that day felt scared and reminisced the events of 1945, when German bombs were raining on London from above, destroying anything on the ground upon impact. The situation today however, is not as bad as it sounds though sometimes we in the media like to grossly exaggerate and sensationalize; bad news sells like hot cakes.
A latest sensation and has been for long, is football. Londoners love football and support one of the best and most popular team in London, Arsenal F.C, to the core. It has not disappointed them either in the current football season. I have also moved and played along with the wave, becoming a fanatical supporter of arsenal, never failing to attend a match when they are playing around town.
Compared to 1945, my life and that of those around me has become hectic and more sophisticated. Nowadays I don’t have to report to work, I can work from the comfort of my home and teleconference with my bosses in the Daily Express offices whenever anything important comes up.
1945 was a bad year for London in terms of the destructions of war. I look at London today and I am amazed at the buildings that stand tall and my mind plays back to the last time I was here, crumbled buildings and the stench of death was in the air.
Today London stands tall and beautiful, but it is very crowded such that negotiating my way into the crowds require much effort. The transport system has also been improved especially in the face of the oncoming Olympic games. The subways have become fast and more convenient, moving from one district to the other around London is no longer a headache; it takes a matter of seconds. I have come to understand and comment on it in my column, that most of the major developments seen in London are as a result of the devastating blow dealt on London in the Second World War. The aftermath of the war brought with it a renewed dedication to put London again on the map as an economic powerhouse.
I can remember the enthusiasm as the British voted in Everett as the president demolishing Winston Churchill leadership. It is the same enthusiasm characterizing the nomination of Gordon Brown today and again the Labor party still is on the driving wheel. This time round, Brown is promising re-assertion of British values. Everett promised personal security in 1945 and he delivered, it will be an uphill task for Brown to deliver and ensure the eroded public pride and trust in the politicians. I have noted with interest in my column one major change that has occurred in Britain is the fall from grace as the most influential nation on earth. By the time we sent our troops to fight of Germans we were the best in the world, having amassed wealth from the exploitation colonization and imperialism. However, upon returning home, America proved to us once again that it sat on the seat of world power. It still does today. All in all, it has been a terrific century for London and it has gone through thick and thin and emerged victoriously. It has undergone a depression, two world wars, terror attacks, political and economic upheavals and it still stands strongly and remains the most important city in the world.
Mark Rice Oxley, June 27, 2007. Britain’s new Prime Minister set on putting “B” back in British. Christian science monitor. Retrieved on 08/11/07 from http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0627/p04501-wo.eu.html
Jonathan Schneer, 1999. London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Maureen Waller, 2005.London 1945:Life in the Debris of War.St Martins Press
Brown, Mike, 2000. Evacuees: Evacuation in Wartime Britain 1939-1945. Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing.
Mann, Jessica, 2006. Out of Harm’s Way: The Wartime Evacuation of Children from Britain. Oxford, UK: Headline Book Publishing Ltd.