Information Hub for the Square Mile

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The Square Mile: Local Government Like No Other

London is some 2,000 years old. Until as recently as 1930, it was by far the world’s largest, richest, and most powerful city, and its influence has shaped the lives of everyone, everywhere. For example, it was London that forced the British sovereign to cede power to Parliament; London thereby promulgated world-wide the idea that states exist to serve their citizens, rather than vice-versa.

In the 1700s and early 1800s, London’s rapidly expanding suburbs developed their own governing bodies, and so today The City is just one of many local governments in London. However, because of its provenance, it is a local government like no other:

  • It is probably the world’s oldest democracy, and predates Parliament
  • It contains many of the world’s oldest organizations
  • Trade guilds, also known as livery companies, continue to dominate the fabric of administration, as they did in medieval times
  • Ancient ceremonies and traditions abound
  • You often see people wearing the clothing of 300-500 years ago
  • It retains many unusual rights and privileges
  • Its active army unit, the Honourable Artillery Company, dates from 1537 and along with the Vatican’s Swiss Guard is the world’s oldest military organization
  • Even the Queen of England cannot enter without the permission of the citizen’s elected representative

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