Imperial London

Civil Government Building in London 1851-1915

M. H. Port

View Inside Price: $70.00

January 25, 1995
356 pages, 9 1/2 x 11
250 b/w + 50 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300059779

Published for the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art

This important book tells the story of the public buildings erected in London during the period when that city served as the capital of a worldwide empire. Examining a wide range of structures, including the British Museum, the Law Courts, the Whitehall government buildings, and the South Kensington museums complex, M.H. Port discusses their political, financial, and social history and the debates over the architectural styles in which they would be built.

Port relates the arguments conducted in Parliament and in the press over the extent to which these buildings were needed, the character that they should exhibit, who should design them, and where they should be sited. Showing how new pressures were exerted on government in a gradually democratizing age, he moves to a discussion of economics—the controversy over who should pay for the buildings. According to Port, many people objected to the idea that the public at large should pay for the embellishment of the metropolis and believed that, if buildings were necessary, they should be as inexpensive as possible. Economy was to be observed not only in siting and design but also in execution, by competitive bidding and secure contracts. Debate also raged over whether the current generation should pay the whole cost or whether it should be shared with posterity through loan finance.

Complex, frustrating, occasionally triumphant, frequently disastrous, the story of the building up of London as an imperial capital is here told with sophistication and authority. It is a definitive book.

M.H. Port is emeritus professor of modern history and senior research fellow at Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London.

"Imperial London should soon become the standard reference work on the subject."—Neil Cooke, Building Design

"Port's authoritative and beautifully written study provides a remarkably detailed account of this extraordinary period, and forces a reassessment of Sir John Summersons's dismissal of much of Victorian building. The illustrations, especially the photographs of the interiors of buildings not usually accessible to the public, are particularly valuable, and the many plans illustrate how complex are the processes which finally bring about an important building or street."—Christopher Woodward, Times Higher Education Supplement

"This splendid examination of government building in London during Britain's Victorian and Edwardian eras represents architectural history at its best. . . . [An] admirable and indispensable work of scholarship. Recommended for research and most college libraries and for public libraries interested in architecture and government planning."—Choice

"Professor Port has written what will clearly be the definitive history of a very major subject. . . . The book is extensively illustrated, the coverage of drawings and designs being especially thorough."—Steven Brindle, Constitution History

"[A] sumptuously illustrated study. . . . Administrative history in the best and widest sense. . . . A sophisticated and important addition to Victorian political history."—H.L. Malchow, Albion

"[A] handsomely-produced and well organized book. . . . [A] valuable record."—R.S.C. Cumming, Journal of the London Society

"[Imperial London: Civil Government Building in London 1850-1915] was a formidable undertaking, and it has been carried out with attention to detail, research among primary sources attested by copious references, and provision of illustrations . . . which compel admiration. . . . Michael Port deserves respect for his arduous work, so carefully set out. One feels that this is definitive."—Michael Robbins, Antiquaries Journal

"Imperial London, profusely illustrated with excellent (color and black and white) photographs, historic prints, and drawings, along with specially-prepared charts and graphics, is no mere coffee-table book. While it would make a lovely gift for history buffs, this valuable reference work should be acquired by college and university librarians for all students and faculty interested in the British Empire, as well as in Victorian and Edwardian London and its most important buildings."—Roger Adelson, The Historian

"This is an impressive tome whose text, illustrations and production values, characteristic of Yale publications, reflect the size and significance of the buildings discussed. . . . Flesh and blood merge with stone and cement. This is a work of mature scholarship, satisfying to academics, and likely to appeal to many a (well-heeled) general reader."—Gordon Bon, Southern History

"The book is a notable work of scholarship which has the traditional virtues of its type, among them clarity, breadth, and detail. In style there is a dryness not lacking in wit, and far from lacking in perception. The author has been well served by his publisher: illustrations are profuse, informative, and attractive, and four appendices usefuly bring together biographical, cost, and other data."—C.G. Powell, Urban History

"To those who love London . . . this book will have special meaning."—Roy Macleod, American Historical Review

"Imperial London is a sumptuously illustrated volume that, thankfully, sacrifices neither historical analysis nor bibligraphic and notational support for presentational gain." —Graham Mooney, Journal of Urban History

"It is a sumptuous production . . . typeset and designed as a book of beauty as well as a work of scholarship. . . . Altogether, this is a work of signal achievement."—P.J. Waller, History

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