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SIR LAURENCE GOMME
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
LONDON: WILLIAMS & NORGATE
This is the third book on London which I have attempted during the past six years. In the Governance of London (1907) I dealt with a newly discovered aspect of the question of origins; in the Making of London (1912) I attempted to apply the results of this study to the evolution of the city; in the present book I deal independently with a part of the subject which is only incidentally touched upon in the two previous books, and I lay claim to have discovered the great fact of historical continuity, conscious and effective continuity, underlying the main issues of London life throughout all its changes. The continuity springs from the city-state of Roman Londinium, is carried through the hundred years of historical silence, is handed on to the London of Anglo-Saxon times, proceeds through the great period of Plantagenet rule, runs deep down under the preponderating mass of Tudor and Stuart changes, and comes out in the open when the Georgian statesmanship broke away the blocking forces.
The continuity thus revealed is not unchanging throughout the centuries. Each age modifies its form; or rather its form is modified by the different forces which have constantly worked upon it. The ideal of continuity comes from Roman London and from Roman Augusta, and it has never lost touch with the realities. Each age has possessed the feeling for continuity, has expressed itself in terms belonging to itself. It is only the terms which have altered. The Plantagenet rulers of London did not express their sense of continuity as the Tudor or the Stuart rulers of London expressed theirs. The material was different, but the undying ideal was always the same.
At certain epochs this ideal has been repressed and smothered for a time, but it has raised its head once and again; and certainly down to the Georgian period it was strongly persistent. I believe that it still exists, that though it is once again repressed and smothered it is there strongly working towards its destined use, ready to hand when once it is clear that the moment for it has arrived.
The value to the history of English institutions from a close study of London is very great. It sets up a standard of comparison both with local and national institutions, and it throws considerable light upon the evolution of the state. Scholars have been too apt to approach the study of English institutions in terms of their latest historical condition, instead of in terms of their earliest condition, and it is only when we come to deal with the facts which arise out of the comparative method that we can see the false