London is considered to be one of the world's most important global cities and has been termed the world's most powerful, most desirable, most influential, most visited, most expensive, innovative, sustainable, most investment friendly, most popular for work, and the most vegetarian-friendly city in the world. London exerts a considerable impact upon the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transportation. London ranks 26 out of 300 major cities for economic performance. It is one of the largest financial centres and has either the fifth or sixth largest metropolitan area GDP. It is the most-visited city as measured by international arrivals and has the busiest city airport system as measured by passenger traffic. It is the leading investment destination, hosting more international retailers and ultra high-net-worth individuals than any other city. London's universities form the largest concentration of higher education institutes in Europe. In 2012, London became the first city to have hosted three modern Summer Olympic Games.
The Marshalsea was a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, now part of London. From at least 1329 until it closed in 1842, it housed men under court martial for crimes at sea, including "unnatural crimes", political figures and intellectuals accused of sedition or other inappropriate behaviour, and—most famously—London's debtors, the length of their stay determined largely by the whim of their creditors. Run privately for profit, as were all prisons in England until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college and functioned largely as an extortion racket. For prisoners who could afford the fees, it came with access to a bar, shop, and restaurant, and the crucial privilege of being allowed to leave the prison during the day, which meant debtors could earn money to pay off their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for decades for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. The prison became known around the world during the 19th century through the writings of the English novelist Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824 for a debt of £40 and 10 shillings. Much of it was demolished in the 1870s, though some of its buildings were used into the 20th century. (more...)
"Jack the Ripper" is the best known pseudonym given to an unidentified serial killer active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter by someone claiming to be the murderer that was disseminated in the media. Attacks ascribed to the Ripper typically involved women prostitutes from the slums whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations. Rumours that the murders were connected intensified in September and October 1888, and extremely disturbing letters from a writer or writers purporting to be the murderer were received by media outlets and Scotland Yard. Mainly because of the extraordinarily brutal character of the murders, and because of media treatment of the events, the public came increasingly to believe in a single serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Extensive newspaper coverage bestowed widespread and enduring international notoriety on the Ripper. An investigation into a series of brutal killings in Whitechapel up to 1891 was unable to connect all the killings conclusively to the murders of 1888, but the legend of Jack the Ripper solidified. As the murders were never solved, the legends surrounding them became a combination of genuine historical research, folklore, and pseudohistory. The term "ripperology" was coined to describe the study and analysis of the Ripper cases. There are over one hundred theories about the Ripper's identity, and the murders have inspired multiple works of fiction.
London has one of the oldest and largest public transport systems in the world. Many components of its transport system, such as the double-decker bus, the Hackney Carriage black taxi and the Tube, are internationally recognised symbols of London.
The majority of transport services in the capital are provided by Transport for London (TfL), an executive agency of the Mayor of London. The Oyster card is accepted as payment across most TfL-controlled transport modes. In the past ten years TfL has invested heavily in walking and cycling to promote more sustainable travel choices in London, including a Velib-style bike hire scheme which opened in Summer 2010.
In addition to public transport, London is the start point for a number of motorway routes. The M25 is an orbital motorway which enables vehicles to avoid travelling through central London and is one of the busiest motorways in Europe.