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The exhilarating story of how London came to be one of the most exciting and influential places on earth—from the city’s colorful, witty, and well-known mayor.

Once a swampland that the Romans could hardly be bothered to conquer, over the centuries London became an incomparably vibrant metropolis that has produced a steady stream of ingenious, original, and outsized figures who have shaped the world we know.

Boris Johnson, the internationally beloved mayor of London, is the best possible guide to these colorful characters and the history in which they played such lively roles. Erudite and entertaining, he narrates the story of London as a kind of relay race. Beginning with the days when “a bunch of pushy Italian immigrants” created Londinium, he passes the torch on down through the famous and the infamous, the brilliant and the bizarre—from Hadrian to Samuel Johnson to Winston Churchill to the Rolling Stones—illuminating with unforgettable clarity the era each inhabited. He also pauses to shine a light on innovations that have contributed to the city’s incomparable vibrancy, from the King James Bible to the flush toilet.

As wildly entertaining as it is informative, this is an irresistible account of the city and people that in large part shaped the world we know.

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