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London Under ~ A Capsule Book Review

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London Under ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

London Under, written by Peter Ackroyd, tells the story what’s going on underneath the ground of one of the largest, busiest and oldest cities in the world. In two thousand years of continuous occupancy, a lot of history has happened on the site. The Romans first established the city as Londimium in 43 A.D. Its location was desirable because of its proximity to the Thames river, allowing ships access by sea. During medieval times, toilets emptied into the river, making life generally unpleasant, with diseases such as cholera, typhoid, plague, and assorted fevers. Millions of people have been buried under the ground and then forgotten, with nothing to tell succeeding generations of their existence.

London has the oldest subway system in the world, going back 150 years. It’s a system that has developed a mythology and superstition of its own. When excavations began, certain superstitious people believed that a dark world, the world of the devil, was being unleashed on the world. There are many abandoned and unused subway tunnels—mysterious passages and stairways going nowhere—that have become home to thieves and murderers, those who dwell in the darkness; not to mention rats and a whole host of unpleasant creatures that dwell in the darkness. People claim to have seen spirits in the subways, especially at sites where fatal accidents have occurred. During World War II, many Londoners used subway tunnels for shelter during air raids. This led to a kind of psychosis whereby a person does not feel safe aboveground.

Ancient underground rivers vie for space beneath London with a vast sewer system that must accommodate a city of millions. (It must take a certain kind of person to be able to work in the dark world of sewers to service and maintain them.) Also, there are vast myriads of underground fiber optic cables, pipes, conduits, etc., for communications and utilities. An entire subterranean world exists that most people, casual visitors to the city, will never know about.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp


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