In the 19th century this area was part of the world's largest port, and it continued to grow until the 1930s. The name Dockland (in the singular) was used in the early part of the 20th century. At this time the port was controlled by the Port of London Authority, or PLA.
In places badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War, the area became economically depressed in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when the shipping industry moved to deep-water ports such as Tilbury and Felixstowe. Unemployment was high and many buildings were derelict.
The name London Docklands was used for the first time in a government report on redevelopment plans in 1971. These plans were complicated by the large number of landowners involved: the PLA, the Greater London Council (GLC), the British Gas Corporation, five borough councils, British Rail and the Central Electricity Generating Board. To overcome this problem, in 1981 the Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Heseltine formed the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) to redevelop the area. The LDDC was wound up in 1998.
The Isle of Dogs was extensively developed as office and residential space in the 1980s and 1990s, as was the huge Canary Wharf project that bankrupted Olympia & York Developments Ltd, the world's largest real estate developers at the time, owned by Canadian Paul Reichmann and his brothers. Since completed, the Docklands are now served by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which connects to the London Underground by the Jubilee Line Extension.
On 19th February 1996 a bomb exploded at South Quay in the Docklands area. Two people died in the explosion, forty people were injured and £150 million pounds of damage was caused. In a 1998 trial James McArdle, working on behalf of the IRA was imprisoned for 25 years after a trial at Woolwich Crown Court that ended on 24th June. As part of the Good Friday Agreement, McArdle was released on Friday 28th June 2000.