|An important settlement for two millennia, London's historygoes back to its founding by the Romans. Since its settlement, London has been the centre of many important movements and phenomena throughout history, such as the English Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and the Gothic Revival. In light of this, the city has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and its popularity has increased over the years due to the city's economic growth. London boasts four World Heritage Sites; these are Palace of Westminster, the Tower of London, the historic settlement of Greenwich, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It is one of the world's leading business, financial, and culturalcentres, and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashionand the artsall contribute to its status as a major global city.
London has an official population of 7,512,400 (as of mid-2006) within the boundaries of Greater Londonand is the most populous municipalityin the European Union. The urban areaof London extends beyond the limits of Greater London and has a population of 8,278,251 (as of 2001). The metropolitan areais estimated to have a population of between 12 and 14 million. London's diverse population draws from a wide range of peoples, cultures, and religions, and over 300 different languages are spoken within the city. It is an international transporthub, with five major international airportsserving the area and a large port. It serves as the largest aviation hub in the world, and the multi-terminal Heathrow Airportcarries more international passengers than any other airport in the world.
The eastern side of London contains the East Endand East London. The East End is the area closest to the original Port of London, known for its high immigrant population, as well as for being one of the poorest areas in London. The surrounding East Londonarea saw much of London's early industrial development; now, brownfieldsites throughout the area are being redeveloped as part of the Thames Gatewayincluding the London Riversideand Lower Lea Valley, which is being developed into the Olympic Parkfor the 2012 Olympics.
ollowing London's growth in the 18th century, it became the world's largest city from about 1831 to 1925. This growth was aided from 1836 by London's first railways, which put countryside towns within easy reach of the city. The rail network expanded very rapidly, and caused these places to grow while London itself expanded into surrounding fields, merging with neighbouring settlements such as Kensington. Rising traffic congestionon city centre roads led to the creation of the world's first metrosystem—the London Underground—in 1863, driving further expansion and urbanisation. Because of this rapid growth, London became one of the first recordedcities in human history to reach a population of one million, and was the first ever to surpass five million .
London's local governmentsystem struggled to cope with the rapid growth, especially in providing the city with adequate infrastructure. Between 1855 and 1889, the Metropolitan Board of Worksoversaw infrastructure expansion. It was then replaced by the County of London, overseen by the London County Council, London's first elected city-wide administration.