The oldest part of south London is Southwark. An urban area to the south of the bridge was developed in the Roman era, but later abandoned. King Alfred established a defensive position in the area in the 9th century, resulting in the name Southwark. In 1965, the London Borough of Southwark was created by merging the former Metropolitan Boroughs of Southwark, Camberwell, and Bermondsey.
The borough borders the City of London and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to the north (the River Thames forms the boundary), the London Borough of Lambeth to the west and the London Borough of Lewisham to the east. The London Borough of Bromley forms a brief border with the borough to the south.
The northwest part of the borough is part of Central London and is densely developed. To the east, the Rotherhithe peninsula has lower-density modern housing and open space formed around the former docks. Southwark's southern part consists primarily of Victorian suburbs such as Camberwell, Peckham, and Nunhead, while its southernmost part is dominated by the prosperous "village" of Dulwich.
According to the 2001 census, Southwark had a population of 244,866, with 63% whites, 16% black Africans, and 8% black Caribbeans. By 2018, the population had grown to 317,256, with 53% whites, 16% black Africans, and 6% black Caribbeans.
The northern end of the borough opposite the Square Mile includes the More London and London Bridge City developments accommodating the offices of major professional service firms. City Hall is home to the Greater London Authority, which includes PricewaterhouseCoopers, Norton Rose, Ernst & Young, Lawrence Graham, and Actis.
There are also many print and publishing companies in Southwark, including the Financial Times, IPC Magazines, and Campus Living Villages UK.
Several old industrial and wharfside buildings remain at Surrey Quays, which is now the defunct Surrey Commercial Docks, including Greenland Dock and Baltic Quay, which were developed for housing in the 1980s and 1990s. The Oxo Tower hosts restaurants, shops and housing, while Butler's Wharf and Hay's Wharf have been converted into mixed-use buildings near Tower Bridge.
There are major retail areas at Surrey Quays, Old Kent Road, Elephant & Castle and central Peckham.
Southwark is currently home to three Opportunity Areas (areas with capacity for significant economic development) as designated in the Mayor of London's London Plan. These are Elephant and Castle, Canada Water and Old Kent Road.