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A nice guide to London’s history, but poor directions

Cadogan Book of Historic London Walks (Cadogan Guide) - Leo Hollis

London is a city of layers.  From its Roman core, successive generations have built over and outward, turning the walled town into the vast metropolis that it is today.  This evolution can be seen just by walking around central London, yet many of the signs of it are tucked away in obscure corners or hidden in the anonymity of everyday life.

 

It is for those people who seek to discover the city’s past for themselves that Leo Hollis wrote this guidebook.  In it he details a dozen walks that allow participants to explore the span of London’s history, from the Roman remnants to its vast physical expansion during Victorian times.  Each walk includes a small map and instructions in bold as to the streets to take, along with explanatory text providing the background of the sites and their historical relevance.

 

Hollis’s book can be a good tool with which to explore London’s past.  His text is readable yet insightful, bringing to light the relevance of so much of the architectural and geographical landscape that might otherwise be taken for granted.  Yet its usefulness is marred by the unclear directions the walks offer.  Oftentimes these are more simplistic than London’s streets can justify and in a few places they prove to be outright wrong.  These problems can be surmounted by an aware reader, though, and should not detract from the informative explorations of the city that Hollis offers within its pages.