THE LONDON SYMPOSIUM 2012: Keynote Speakers

The Keynote Address at LONDONICITY 2012 was offered by distinguished historian of London, Professor Jerry White (Birkbeck, University of London).


Jerry took as the title for his Keynote Address the major theme of the conference, 'London - City of Transformations?'.


For information on other Keynote Speakers at THE LONDON SYMPOSIUM 2012, please see our websites at and



Jerry White is a Visiting Professor in London History at Birkbeck College, London and the holder of an Honorary D.Litt from the University of London. Jerry has had an unusual career for a professional historian. After leaving grammar school in Dorset in 1967 he pursued a career in local government until 2009. From 1970 he worked in London, first as a public health inspector at Islington and then in senior positions in the housing and health departments of Haringey and Hackney.


From 1989 to 1995 he was chief executive of the London Borough of Hackney, and from 1995 to 2009 one of the three Local Government Ombudsmen for England (with responsibility for South London among other areas). He didn’t realise it at the beginning, but it was all a good grounding for a historian of modern London, especially in understanding its housing problem and the mechanics of local government and politics.

In 1971 he stumbled across Rothschild Buildings in Flower and Dean Street in London's East End and an interest in London history – especially the lives of working-class Londoners – almost immediately turned into a passion.  But his 'foolhardy' decision to write an oral history of this East End tenement block led him to meet Raphael Samuel, tutor in social history at Ruskin College, Oxford, who single-handedly gave him the university training as a historian that he had never had.


Jerry's first book, Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East End Tenement Block, 1887-1920 (1980, new edition 2003) was followed by a study of a London slum street demolished long before Jerry worked nearby, The Worst Street in North London: Campbell Bunk, Islington, Between the Wars (1986, revised as Campbell Bunk: The Worst Street in London Between the Wars, 2003). There was then a pretty long silence as his local government career left little time for reflection, even peace of mind. But he never stopped collecting and reading books about London. And when Jerry was appointed Ombudsman in 1995 he felt he was ready to start writing once more.

Since 1997 Jerry has been writing his great trilogy on the history of modern London, moving back through the centuries to publish London in the Twentieth Century (2008), London in the Nineteenth Century (2008) and culminating, in early 2012, in London in the Eighteenth Century. Having spent some fifteen years on the project, Jerry says he is glad he took on the challenge and that "If the last volume is well received, this trilogy will be the greatest achievement of my life." Jerry has also published the Museum of London's lavish overview volume, London: The Story of a Great City (2010). His next book is on London in the First World War, to be published in the centenary year of 2014. 



The full line-up of Keynote Speakers at THE LONDON SYMPOSIUM 2012 was as follows.




Prof. Jerry White (Birkbeck, University of London)

                                                  'London: City of Transformations?'




Prof. Denis Judd (London Metropolitan University)

'Great Britain: A United Kingdom?'




Prof. Ian Christie (Birkbeck London, UK)

'The End of Representation? Beginning with the Audience'

William Horsley (University of Sheffield, UK)

'Media Freedom: The Battle for Representation'