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9780224071758

The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum

Wise, Sarah Author

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A brilliant new book about the seedy side of Victorian London by a talented young historian.

In 1887, government inspectors were sent to report on the horrifying, often lethal, living conditions of the Old Nichol, a notorious 15-acre slum in London’s East End. Among much else, they found that the rotting 100-year-old houses were some of the most lucrative properties in the capital for their absent slumlords. Peers of the Realm, local politicians, churchmen and lawyers were making profits on these death-traps of as much as 150 per cent per annum. Before long, Old Nichol became a focus of public attention: its 6,000 inhabitants were condemned for their drunkenness and criminality. The solution to the “problem” lay in internment camps, some said, or forced emigration — even eugenics.

The Blackest Streets focuses on the last fifteen years of the nineteenth century, a turbulent period in London’s history, when revolution was very much in the air — when unemployment, agricultural depression and a crackdown on parish relief provided a breeding ground for communists and anarchists.

Sarah Wise explores the real lives behind the statistics, excavating the Old Nichol from the ruins of history, laying bare the social and political conditions that created and sustained this black hole at the very heart of the Empire.

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About the Author:

Sarah Wise is a freelance journalist and author of The Italian Boy.

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Wise, Sarah Author
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