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Throughout the nineteenth century, London, then the largest city in the world, was at the forefront of massive societal changes brought on by industrialisation and urbanization. In addition, the city took on new relevance as the undisputed political, commercial and political centre of the British empire. Increasingly, the city was identified a metropolis – but what did the term signify and how did associations change over the course of the late nineteenth century? And did other European metropoles of the time, such as Paris, Vienna or Berlin serve as a relevant comparison or contrast to London – either positively or negatively?
The paper draws on material from the British Newspaper Archive and employs collocation and n-gram analysis conducted with the corpus linguistics tool Antconc in order to draw out relevant contexts and connotations about the metropolis. While previous scholarship has suggested that the term metropolis implied a strongly ‘European’ dimension, it will be argued that in the ‘everyday’ usage of newspapers, the metropolis was utilised to present London as a showcase of an imperial metropolis quite distinct from, rather than on par with, its European counterparts.