The Mercenary River: A History of London’s Water Supply
25 October 2022
Presented by Nick Higham, Journalist, Interviewer and Author
About the Webinar
No city can survive without water, and lots of it. Today we take the stuff for granted: turn a tap and it gushes out. But it wasn’t always so. For centuries London, one of the largest and richest cities in the world, struggled to supply its citizens with reliable, clean water. Nick’s talk is based on his book, The Mercenary River, which tells the story of that struggle from the Middle Ages to the present day. Based on new research, it is a tale of remarkable technological, scientific and organisational breakthroughs, but also a story of greed and complacency, high finance and low politics. Among the breakthroughs was the picturesque New River, neither new nor a river but a state-of-the-art aqueduct completed in 1613 and still part of London’s water supply: the company that built it was one of the very first modern business corporations, and also one of the most profitable. Nick’s book concludes by asking whether today’s 21st century water companies are an improvement on their rapacious Victorian predecessors.
About the Speaker
Nick Higham is a journalist, interviewer and author, and a former BBC News reporter. He was the BBC’s first dedicated media correspondent, spent 14 years as arts and media correspondent, and went on to report on a wide range of subjects on television and radio, wherever possibly smuggling history onto the airwaves under the guise of news.
Nick also presented “Meet the Author” on the BBC News Channel for many years. The Mercenary River is his first book.