Some comfortable others poor
March 18, 2019 12:06 PM   Subscribe

The Maps Descriptive of London Poverty are perhaps the most distinctive product of Charles Booth's Inquiry into Life and Labour in London (1886-1903). An early example of social cartography, each street is coloured to indicate the income and social class of its inhabitants.

What Were the Poverty Maps?
The 12 Maps Descriptive of London Poverty, 1898-9 cover an area of London from Hammersmith in the west, to Greenwich in the east, and from Hampstead in the north to Clapham in the south. The Charles Booth archive at LSE Library contains a possible thirteenth sheet, covering Woolwich (archive reference number: Booth/A/49). This sheet is not included in the map presented on this site, but an image of it can be viewed on LSE Library's Flickr account.

The City of London was not included in the street level survey because it did not house any significant number of residents. For this reason, the City of London remains uncoloured and unclassified on the maps.
Part of Charles Booth's London, a digital exhibition from the London School of Economics Library. (Previously, previouslier.)

Also from the LSE Digital Library:

Street Life in London (1876-7)
Street Life in London, published in 1876-7, consists of a series of articles by the radical journalist Adolphe Smith and the photographer John Thomson. The pieces are short but full of detail, based on interviews with a range of men and women who eked out a precarious and marginal existence working on the streets of London, including flower-sellers, chimney-sweeps, shoe-blacks, chair-caners, musicians, dustmen and locksmiths. The subject matter of Street Life was not new – the second half of the 19th century saw an increasing interest in urban poverty and social conditions – but the unique selling point of Street Life was a series of photographs ‘taken from life’ by Thomson. The authors felt at the time that the images lent authenticity to the text, and their book is now regarded as a key work in the history of documentary photography.

London Municipal Election Posters, 1907.
The cartoon in this poster shows a political meeting and a speaker shouting to an audience. The Speaker has 'Municipal Reform' written on his belly and is saying (in speech bubble) 'Our Policy is- All for us, and, the remainder-for our friends!'. He is flanked by two men to his right, who are marked 'Capital Trust'. To his left, seated behind a table marked 'Municipal Reform', are three figures, one of whom declares, 'That's what I've always done!'. At the bottom of the cartoon are the heads of the audience from the back. On these heads are written various terms, such as 'Gas Trust', 'Landlords Trust' and 'No Parks and Music for the People, Primrose League'.
posted by goblin-bee (5 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The Secret History of Our Streets (2012) is a BBC Two documentary that uses Booth's maps as a jumping-off point to chart the history of six London streets. You get a real sense of the wheel of gentrification - rise and fall and rise again.

The OS Town Plans (1840s-1890s) cover 400 towns in Great Britain at an amazing (for the time) 1:500 scale: "Public health concerns provided the initial rationale for the Ordnance Survey large-scale town plans. The major cholera epidemic of 1832, along with continuing outbreaks of typhus, were strong in people's minds, along with the growing awareness that cartography had provided the vital links to discovering the causes of these diseases. During the 1840s, the Poor Law Commissioners recommended that the Ordnance Survey should create detailed town plans in conjunction with their mapping of counties, for encouraging local authorities to make sanitary improvements."
posted by Leon at 12:19 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]

Oh, this is a rabbit hole I’m diving in to. Send refreshments.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:31 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

(Just a heads-up that one of the photos in the Street Life series, "November Effigies", shows performers in blackface, for those who'd prefer to avoid/not be ambushed by it.)
posted by goblin-bee at 12:53 PM on March 18

Not just a rabbit hole but an amazing rabbit warren. Excuse me - just picking up snacks and going back down...
posted by speug at 1:27 PM on March 18

My office seems to be in an area of "Chronic want". That explains a lot.
posted by Major Tom at 5:26 AM on March 19

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