Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Charles Booth's survey, The Life and Labour of the People in London, published in 17 volumes from 1889 to 1903. Booth (1840-1916), a Liverpudlian shipping line owner, surveyed every household in London to see if it was true, as claimed, that as many as a quarter lived in poverty. He found that it was closer to a third, and that many of these were either children with no means of support or older people no longer well enough to work. He went on to campaign for an old age pension, and broadened the impact of his findings by publishing enhanced Ordnance Survey maps with the streets coloured according to the wealth of those who lived there.
The image above is of an organ grinder on a London street, circa 1893, with children dancing to the Pas de Quatre
Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia
Adjunct Professor at the University of California
Emeritus Fellow in History at St Peter’s College, University of Oxford
Producer: Simon Tillotson