In the 1820s London overtook Beijing as the world’s largest city. By 1900, it was a metropolis of almost seven million, and capital of a global empire of unprecedented scale. Headlong growth created notorious slums, and insanitary conditions resulted in a successive cholera epidemics (1831–66). In response to the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858, the engineer Joseph Bazalgette was commissioned to produce a sewerage system that would extend over 80 miles (130 kilometres). The railway (from 1836) and then the Underground (from 1863) enabled expansion by permitting workers to commute. The centre increasingly became the domain of office workers, but London remained a major manufacturer and the principal port and dockyards of the Empire. London County Council (1888) was established to oversee the city’s municipal administration, while the new Palace of Westminster (1840–70) housed its national government. The Great Exhibition (1851) and Diamond Jubilee (1897) showcased the city and its power.
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