London’s South Bank


by Mireille Galinou

What if the South Bank, which already holds London’s centre of gravity, also held the city’s soul? London’s South Bank explores this theme by concentrating on the modern period – from 1600 to the present day. First it examines the social and topographical fabric by taking snapshots of the area under review at different historical periods – 1600, 1770, 1845, and now. This gazetteer, accompanied by reconstructions, maps and historical images, is a work of reference which underpins the book’s investigation. The book also reveals that each of the four South Bank neighbourhoods under scrutiny have surprisingly different characters – Vauxhall and Lambeth; Waterloo; Borough and Bankside; Southwark and Bermondsey. Finally, the last chapter maps out possible answers to the quest announced in the Prologue.

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London is both a tangible place and a bundle of ideas; it means something different to everybody who lives, works or visits. Capturing the meaning of London is consequently immensely difficult, if not impossible, but in this book Mireille has approached the problem by triangulating past, present and future to find the essence of place.

Simon Thurley, Historian and Heritage Expert

This is an ambitious book framed by the author’s quest for ‘the soul of London’. It is possible that some will be surprised by this approach. It does move into the territory that Peter Ackroyd has been interested in, where he attempts to unearth the character of London and the identity of places within the city over a long period of history.

I see the book being especially attractive to the informed general reader with a London interest. There are aspects of the title that will appeal to the urban and cultural historian and those with an interest in urban art.

Alex Werner, (former) Head of History Collections, The Museum of London