“Londinium” became the capital of Roman Britain from roughly AD 60 onwards, as the former provincial capital, Colchester, was destroyed by the Boudiccan revolt of the same year.1
London must have felt deific to her imperial rulers during the period of the colonial correspondence. Arguably, the city was the locus of Britain's power, whose tendrils of trade, unapologetic conquest, and empire building reached nearly every continent. In 1851, the city hosted the Great Exhibition of Industry of All Nations—a characteristically Eurocentric title in post-colonial terms—which drew over 6 million people and showcased Victorian London as the envied seat of industry, trade, science, and political power.2
London's population built to a swarm throughout the 1800s, from 1.35 million in 1825 to 6.5 million by the turn of the century.3 London was, however, mired in more than mass of steam, steel, soot, and top hats. The administrative and military demands required for colonial dominance pressed continually, and Britain could not keep pace with its conquests and, as historian James E. Hendrickson points out, nobody ran the Empire, at least in the mid-to-late-19th century.4 Further to this, Hendrickson adds that both politicians and the Colonial Office tended to be reactive instead of proactive to events in its many dependencies. Indeed, evidence for this notion is apparent throughout the colonial correspondences between the Colonial Office, Vancouver Island, and later British Columbia.5
The word “London” is Celtic-rooted, and translates loosely as place at the navigable or unfordable river.6 This etymology seems a snug fit for this port city's life of prolific trade and seaborne dominance.
  • 1. London, A Dictionary of British History.
  • 2. Alexander Hugo Schulenburg, London, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern World.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. James E. Hendrickson, The Colonial Office in 1858, Colonial Despatches.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. London, A Dictionary of British Place-Names.
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