Victorian London Street Life Analysis

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John Thomson and Adolphe Smith’s Victorian London Street Life is an in-depth examination of the conditions of life of poverty in London from 1877 to 1878. It is considered to be a primary source into the lives of the poor through close observations portraying a kind of testimony regarding the harsh living conditions and circumstances of the poverty stricken people of London. Studying these historical documents has its challenges due to the compulsion for people to find the right answers to everything. Although the problem is that there is no right or wrong answers when it comes to interpreting history, only estimated theories. Historians are constantly engaging in historical analysis and interpretation to seek out these right answers from …show more content…
Some of the various reasons for this population growth include larger families, children surviving infancy, people living longer because of medical advances, and increase of immigration especially coming from Ireland. By the end of the century there were three times more people living in Great Britain and the majority of these people were flocking into cities in search for employment. These large influx of workers in the area, both skilled and unskilled resulted in small wages, seasonal work, child labour, overcrowding, poor sanitary condition, slum housing and destitution. In Victorian England, there was a huge emphasis on social class where aristocracy was at the top controlling parliament and the middle classes dominated culture and morals which is also known as hedgmony. The ideas of the British middle class revolved around individual effort, enterprise, cleanliness and sobriety. The ideal that the laboring classes could move up in class based on their hard work was essentially false as the laboring classes made up 5/6 of the population and in this classist society it was rare for people to move up. This is why there was a debate among Victorian society about who were “deserving poor” and who were “undeserving poor”. The deserving poor were considered honorable, hard working and largely victims of circumstances while the undeserving poor were seen as lazy with bad habits such …show more content…
Beginning in the 1830s with the passage of the First Reform Act, the middle class redefined their respective interests, rendering former provisional allies as adversaries in an emerging class war. This class war established this negative stigma attached to the “underserving poor” and this was the reason why social reformists like Adolphe Smith arose to help improve these stigmas and to help the condition of the poor by trying to increase wages, improve conditions and end child labour. Smith was not the first of his time to create such a controversial documentation of the poor in London. Henry Mayhew created a book called London Labour and the London Poor in 1851 which was an attempt to understand the changes in London due to the increase of industrialization and the city’s life and economy. This documentation sparked Adolphe’s Smiths adaptation of London’s poor with the help of photographer John Thomson. The authors pushed their agenda in this documentation by presenting the subjects in such a way to represent the poor as the “deserving poor” in which the people were all hard working and generally good people just caught in difficult circumstances. One example of this would be their subject the temperance sweep in which Smith regarded as a hardworking chimney sweep who

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