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Notorious London: A City Tour

Dive into the history of London through the lens of some of its most infamous places, personalities, and politics across the centuries.
Notorious London: A City Tour is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 29.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from okay, but not a Great course This is an odd course. For one thing, it’s organized around “lessons” rather than “lectures”; I’m not sure what (if any) distinction is intended. The organization is very bizarre -- neither obviously chronological nor geographical. It ends with the 21st c., but the first one looks at the 1890s -- then it’s the 17th c., the 1940s, 1960s, 17th/18th c., 1850s, 1880s, 1890s/1950s, and so on. Even within a single lesson, it will be (say) the 1700s, then a digression to the 1980s or something, and back to the 1700s again. Many of the topics aren’t exactly notorious, either, and the lecturer -- sorry, “presenter” -- seems to be aware of this: more than a couple of them end up saying something along the lines of “And so, as we can see, yet again..., this was a NOTORIOUS period in London’s past” (lined up, of course, with the dramatic closing music). It was also curious that a speaker who’s a specialist in British history and culture, and clearly has spent a lot of time there, muffs a lot of British pronunciations. --- Don’t get me wrong: this course is entertaining and you’ll learn stuff, but it’s just not the same quality I’ve come to expect from the TC. I own 50 or 60 (almost all audio downloads), and this is definitely among the bottom 4 or 5.
Date published: 2024-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from OK, but… In general, a good course. The best lectures were #2 (St. Paul’s Cathedral in Faith, Fire and Sin) and #9 (The Great Stink of 1858). There was no mention of the Great Smog of December 1952. Interesting that blow-back from the disintegrating British Empire had so many adverse effects on this great city: the Blitz (1940-1941), Irish Republican attacks (1867-2001), Israeli Stern Gang attacks (1947) and Palestinian/Islamic reprisals (1969-1997). And in recent years we are still seeing terrorist attacks linked to Islamic grievances; lecture #12 (The Prying Eyes of London CCTV) mentions a few. Professor Deslandes has an emphatic speaking style with never-stopping up-and-down hand gestures; one wonders if he could speak with his hands tied behind him. The illustrations, photographs and maps are excellent. HWF & ISF, Mesa AZ.
Date published: 2023-06-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not What I Was Expecting The presentation and content are excellent. Excellently well researched and combined into a flowing and intriguing set of stories. Unfortunately, the title is misleading. I was expecting stories that shared events and places related to serious crimes and political & royal corruption: murder, intrigue, blackmail, oppression - the things that add fun with history to visiting London and that give a sense of appreciation and relief for how much better life is. A number of the stories do touch on these things but far more under the heading of history lessons than notoriety.
Date published: 2023-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this! I totally love Mr. Professor P. Deslandes, PhD! He kept me engaged and I hope my sister and I can plan a trip to London some day with him as our guide and partner in crime! I learned a lot from this course. A hell of a lot better to learn from these courses than hang around with our faces stuck to our phones. Just sayin'..... definitely enjoyed it and hope you do as well!
Date published: 2023-02-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from really not a good probram I expected so much more than what I bought. I thought for sure it would go into more details
Date published: 2022-08-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from "London, a city tour" is a more accurate title Content was not what I expected. All ready knew most of the information from prior experience. Lecturer was good, would listen to him again.
Date published: 2022-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well rounded view of a Great City Interesting overview of my favorite city. On my last visit I was struck by the fact that several of the more “notorious” aspects of historical London (Tyburn Tree and Jack the Ripper) appear to be purposely downplayed. Even this presentation short changes them. The Tyburn Gallows operated between roughly 1108 and 1783 (over 650 years) as the principal location for public executions in London. By some estimates over 50,000 poor souls died on a spot marked by a small circular monument embedded in the center of an intersection. I asked several Bobbies around the Marble Arch where the monument was … they had to ask a much older Policeman. We also took the typical Jack the Ripper even tour and were quite surprised that none of the “notorious” spots so popularized in movie and books were marked by monuments or plaques. Perhaps that is not the type of history Londoners want to be remembered
Date published: 2022-05-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not My Cup of Tea It wasn't what I expected. I expected a lot more visual aids like maps (there was one in the presentation), charts, diagrams, and particularly videos, The information provided was fair to good but was not entertaining. The style of the lecture was boring. I guess I expected something on the level of a Ken Burns video, with interesting videos, pictures, and presented in a more entertaining way--as well as informative.
Date published: 2022-04-04
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Dive into the history of London through the lens of some of its most infamous places, personalities, and politics across the centuries.


Paul Deslandes

Please join me on this tour of notorious London.


The University of Vermont

Paul Deslandes is a Professor of History at the University of Vermont, where he chairs the Department of History and the university’s Historic Preservation Program. He previously taught at Texas Tech University, where he was awarded the Hemphill-Wells New Professor Excellence in Teaching Award and was elected to the Teaching Academy. He received his BA in History from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and his MA in British History and PhD in History from the University of Toronto.

Among the courses Paul offers at the University of Vermont are London: A Cultural History and Sex in Modern History. He has been active in promoting the teaching of history at the high school level, and he served for several years as chief reader for the College Board’s AP European History program. He also held the position of executive secretary for the North American Conference on British Studies.

Paul is a cultural historian of modern Britain and has focused much of his writing on the history of gender and sexuality, education, and fashion. He is the author of many articles, essays, and books, including Oxbridge Men: British Masculinity and the Undergraduate Experience, 1850–1920 and The Culture of Male Beauty in Britain: From the First Photographs to David Beckham. He also received a REACH grant for his project titled “Transatlantic Britishness: Architecture, Design, and Cultural Exchange, 1876–Present,” sustaining research for a book that will examine material culture and design exchanges between Britain and North America.

By This Professor

Notorious London: A City Tour
Notorious London: A City Tour


Oscar Wilde’s Decadent London

01: Oscar Wilde’s Decadent London

Begin your historical tour of London with a look at the city when it was home to Oscar Wilde at the close of the 19th century. Trace the details of Wilde’s trial for indecency as you examine the way London society was structured and how immense wealth and privilege—for some—left its imprint on the city and its history.

34 min
St. Paul’s Cathedral in Faith, Fire, and Sin

02: St. Paul’s Cathedral in Faith, Fire, and Sin

St. Paul’s Cathedral has overlooked London from a high point in the city for generations. Uncover the history of this church that has been so much more than a place of worship for the people of London, and has survived fire, plague, and the ravages of war. Here, you will look at several episodes from the cathedral’s long and storied past.

30 min
Getting Blitzed at London’s Café de Paris

03: Getting Blitzed at London’s Café de Paris

Go back in time to an evening in March of 1941, when the Café de Paris—a popular center of London nightlife in the 1930s and 40s—was destroyed in the Blitz. Uncover the history of the Café and see how its destruction reflects not only the horrors of wartime London, but the resiliency of the citizens who had to “keep calm and carry on” under the threat of war.

31 min
On Carnaby Street during the Swinging ’60s

04: On Carnaby Street during the Swinging ’60s

Carnaby Street emerged during the expansion of London in the 17th century and would go on to become a symbol of social change in the 1960s. Look back on the history of this three-block stretch of city street and see why it became such a magnet for trendsetters and youth culture in post-war London, and examine why these changes were embraced by some and seen as a threat by others.

29 min
A History of Infamy in the Tower of London

05: A History of Infamy in the Tower of London

Dive into the long history of the Tower of London and its many roles: fortress; royal residence; mint; armory; military garrison; zoo; and, perhaps most notably, prison. From the days of William the Conqueror to the Victorian era and later, you will see how this structure has played a significant part in London’s long and notorious history.

32 min
Underground Catholics of Protestant London

06: Underground Catholics of Protestant London

Following the Protestant Reformation of her father Henry VIII’s reign, Elizabeth I and her successor James I ruled over an England torn by religious controversy and their rules were characterized by multiple conspiracies. Relive the history of religious persecution in London, from the pro-Catholic Mary I to her Protestant successors.

28 min
Wicked Fun at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

07: Wicked Fun at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

Especially popular with the aristocracy and the aspiring middle classes, the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens were 12 acres of woods and gravel walks on the South Bank of the Thames. Experience some of the scandalous stories of overindulgence, social interaction, sex, pleasure, and danger that abounded in and around this quintessentially 18th-century public place.

29 min
Taking the Dead Man’s Path to Tyburn Tree

08: Taking the Dead Man’s Path to Tyburn Tree

Look back on the trial and execution of Jack Sheppard in 1724 and reflect on the ways Jack’s story highlights the public display of state power and the nature of public life in 18th-century London. Somewhat of a folk hero, Jack Sheppard still met an ignominious end that sheds light on the drastic disparities between the haves and the have-nots of London’s past.

26 min
The Great Stink of 1858

09: The Great Stink of 1858

How did a vital waterway like the Thames become so polluted that its rancid stench disrupted the everyday life of an entire city? Revisit the year 1858 and the “Great Stink” that helped Londoners conceptualize the dangers of pollution and prompted the implementation of lasting reforms that transformed the city’s infrastructure for generations to come.

31 min
In the Footsteps of Jack the Ripper

10: In the Footsteps of Jack the Ripper

Whitechapel had a reputation as a notorious district riddled with crime and poverty in the 19th century. While this characterization is not entirely accurate, the grisly murders of Jack the Ripper—and the sensationalist news coverage of them—cemented its dangerous status. Learn the real history of this East London neighborhood as you follow the trail of this infamous serial killer.

29 min
Fading Empire and the 1897 Diamond Jubilee

11: Fading Empire and the 1897 Diamond Jubilee

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 celebrated 60 years of the monarch’s rule. As you revisit the pomp and circumstance of this grand occasion, Professor Deslandes will highlight what this sort of celebration revealed about London, its royals, and its citizens—and also what it was intended to obscure about the decline of the British Empire and the rapid changes of a modern world.

33 min
The Prying Eyes of London CCTV

12: The Prying Eyes of London CCTV

A series of bombings in the early 1990s prompted the British government to create what they called a “ring of steel,” which expanded police presence and surveillance in the city. Close your London tour with a look at how the vast network of CCTV devices implemented at the turn of the century transformed the way Londoners and visitors alike experience the city and how we think about issues like privacy and civil rights.

31 min