At the time the largest city in the world, Victorian London intrigued and appalled politicians, clergymen, novelists and social investigators. Dickens, Mayhew, Booth, Gissing and George Bernard Shaw, to name but a few, developed a morbid fascination with its sullied streets and the sensational gulf between London classes. Outcast London explores the London economy, in particular its vast numbers of casual and irregular day labourers and the artisans and seamstresses engaged in seasonal and workshop trades.
This vast assemblage was volatile, subject to the ups and downs of the world economy, to the vagaries of the weather, and to the rise and fall of various trades. Its crises could cause panic in wealthy London. New forms of charity came into being as well as, eventually, an embryonic form of the twentieth century welfare state.
At first sight, the London described in this book is wholly remote from the city encountered today. But developments in recent decades reveal that the types of irregular employment, poverty and inequality experienced by modern Londoners are not so distant from those familiar to their Victorian and Edwardian ancestors.
About Outcast London
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Victorian middle and upper classes felt increasingly threatened by the masses of “outcast London.” Gareth Stedman Jones, working from a mass of statistical and documentary evidence, argues that after 1850 London passed through a crisis of social and economic development. Outcast London is a fascinating and important study of the problem at the center of the crisis: the casual poor and their fraught relations with the labor market, with housing and with middle-class London.