Being one of the largest and most populated cities of Europe, London, the United Kingdom’s capital is a cosmopolitan area in which a highly diverse range of peoples, cultures and religions coexist today. According to a Guardian newspaper editorial, “London in 2005 can lay claim to being the most diverse city ever.” With more than 300 different languages spoken in London’s streets by its permanent residents, such a claim seems at least reasonable.
During my last London visit, I was astonished by the multicultural experience a tourist like me could have, just by visiting different neighborhoods and talking to a variety of people. In fact, the city is considered today to be an international transport hub and an extremely popular tourist destination, making London one of the most visited world’s capitals; a fact that tremendously promotes its multicultural character.
London’s metropolitan are has considerably grown over the centuries, especially during the 19th and early 20th centuries increasing industrialization that led to rapid population growth. England’s capital was the most populated city of the world until 1925, when New York overtook its immense number of citizens. London continued to grow until World War II and the Green Belt legislation which led to its population largely remain static. But although urban building constructions were not allowed to take place at the same speed as before, the city’s habitats’ number continued to increase. Today, London’s wider metropolitan area has a population between 12 and 14 million depending on the definition of that area. According to the 2001 census, 27 percent of London’s population was born outside the UK and about 29 percent were classified as non-white -non-counting the unknown tens of thousands who did not complete a census form. But even this total does not include the second the third generation immigrants, who have inherited the traditions of their parents and grandparents.
Ethnically diverse and historically rich, London continues to attract people from around the globe who find in its neighborhoods their new home. London in 2006 is uncharted territory. According to sociologists and historians, never have so many different kinds of people tried living together in the same place before. Virtually every race, nation, culture and religion in the world can claim at least a dozen of Londoners. But, what some people see as the greatest experiment of multiculturalism of the last centuries is already challenged by the global political and social developments which have recently begun to point out that harmony and peace are more than ever subject to the powers of race and ethnicity.