> Skip to content
  • Published: 2 November 2001
  • ISBN: 9780099422587
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 848
  • RRP: $49.99


The Biography

A masterpiece: London: A Biography is the culmination and distillation of Peter Ackroyd's lifelong obsession with the history and topography of London. Vividly anecdotal and brilliantly original.

Much of Peter Ackroyd's work has been concerned with the life and past of London but here, as a culmination, is his definitive account of the city. For him it is a living organism, with its own laws of growth and change, so London is a biography rather than a history. It differs from other histories, too, in the range and diversity of its contents. Ackroyd portrays London from the time of the Druids to the beginning of the twenty-first century, noting magnificence in both epochs, but this is not a simple chronological record. There are chapters on the history of silence and the history of light, the history of childhood and the history of suicide, the history of Cockney speech and the history of drink.

London is perhaps the most important study of the city ever written, and confirms Ackroyd's status as what one critic has called 'our age's greatest London imagination.'

  • Published: 2 November 2001
  • ISBN: 9780099422587
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 848
  • RRP: $49.99

About the author

Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning historian, biographer, novelist, poet and broadcaster. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography, Thames: Sacred River and London Under; biographies of figures including Charles Dickens, William Blake, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock; and a multi-volume history of England. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

Also by Peter Ackroyd

See all

Praise for London

It would be no exaggeration to say that Peter Ackroyd's 'biography' of our capital is the book about London. It contains a lifetime of reading and research-but this huge book is light and airy and playful-[He] leads us on a journey both historical and geographical, but also imaginative. Every street, alley and courtyard has a story, and Ackroyd brings it to life for us - marvellous

A N Wilson, Daily Mail

Nothing can quite match the huge strange echo chamber of life-stories, folktales, and urban myths conjured up in Peter Ackroyd's epic vision of his native city. Sparkling, witty scholarship is constantly transformed into smoky mystical street-history, with dark hypnotic meditations on fog, fire, sewage, suicide and civic resurrection

Richard Holmes, Daily Telegraph

Ackroyd is the most effortless guide. You wander by his side through the streets of the old city, savouring its bustle, colours and its smells, the stink of living. This is much more than history; it is a tapestry of inspiration and love. You will not find a better, more visionary book about a place we take for granted


It's this decade's finest work of non-fiction

Jude Rogers, The Word

[London] may be several years old but it remains one of the leading narratives as he cleverly weaves through centuries of history to reveal to us the hundreds of different cities within a city

Fiona Hamilton, The Times

The definitive history of London...a must read for anyone interested in the subject

Gary Kemp, Daily Express

Peter Ackroyd was born to write the biography of London - a brilliant book

Sunday Telegraph

This magnificent evocation of all that London has meant down the centuries… I cannot begin to describe the richness with which Ackroyd pursues his theme…a blend of virtuosity and deep affection that is truly bewitching. Ackroyd has performed a noble public service in preserving in these pages so many centuries of marvels, horrors and secrecies

Jan Morris, Mail on Sunday

Magisterial…a gargantuan feat of scholarship… With each chapter the life of the city becomes ever more intense, pulsating and persisting through the ages

Scotland on Sunday

Ackroyd’s superbly crafted, learned, intelligent London is the best monument the world’s capital could have. It is absolutely wonderful

John Simpson, Daily Telegraph

Invariably exciting and immensely enjoyable… Ackroyd coruscates with ideas and fancies…the total effect is spectacular and vastly stimulating. "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." The same could be said with equal justice of any reader who finds no pleasure or instruction in Ackroyd’s book




Truly, he has written London’s biography. I began rereading it as soon as I finished, and I urge you to read it as soon as possible, so that you can begin rereading it as well

Will Self, New Statesman

A fat and filling feast: pretty much everything of interest about the capital is crammed into the eight-hundred pages. One cannot but marvel at Ackroyd’s erudition, his energy in marshalling minutiae, his ear for quotation, his flair for dazzling juxtapositions, his vibrant imagination and sheer exuberance

The Times

An erudite labour of love, a fan-letter to a fabulous city, and a book one suspects Ackroyd was destined to write. It illuminates the English character, and is darkly humorous in its detail, tumbling through centuries crowded with legendary events and eccentric observations, as exuberant, energetic and alarming as the city itself

Independent on Sunday

A masterpiece

Evening Standard


Express on Sunday

A sharp, beautifully written but above all truthful account of London…This is the kind of writing that gives intellectuals a good name

Sunday Tribune

Related titles