Cover image for Dirty old London : the Victorian fight against filth
Title:
Dirty old London : the Victorian fight against filth
Author:
Jackson, Lee, 1971- , author.
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [2014]
Physical Description:
293 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates ; 24 cm
Summary:
"In Victorian London, filth was everywhere : horse traffic filled the streets with dung, household rubbish went uncollected, cesspools brimmed with 'night soil', graveyards teemed with rotting corpses, the air itself was choked with smoke. In this intimately visceral book, Lee Jackson guides us through the underbelly of the Victorian metropolis, introducing us to the men and women who struggled to stem a rising tide of pollution and dirt, and the forces that opposed them." --from inside jacket flap.
Language:
English
Contents:
The golden dustman -- Inglorious mud -- Night soil -- Removable causes -- Vile bodies -- The great unwashed -- The public convenience -- Wretched houses -- The veil of soot.
ISBN:
9780300192056
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

In Victorian London, filth was everywhere: horse traffic filled the streets with dung, household rubbish went uncollected, cesspools brimmed with "night soil," graveyards teemed with rotting corpses, the air itself was choked with smoke. In this intimately visceral book, Lee Jackson guides us through the underbelly of the Victorian metropolis, introducing us to the men and women who struggled to stem a rising tide of pollution and dirt, and the forces that opposed them.

Through thematic chapters, Jackson describes how Victorian reformers met with both triumph and disaster. Full of individual stories and overlooked details--from the dustmen who grew rich from recycling, to the peculiar history of the public toilet--this riveting book gives us a fresh insight into the minutiae of daily life and the wider challenges posed by the unprecedented growth of the Victorian capital.


Author Notes

Lee Jackson is a well-known Victorianist and creator of a preeminent website on Victorian London (www.victorianlondon.org).


Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Despite the modern changes society was working toward during London's Victorian era (1837-1901) there was still a pervasive problem-filth. Jackson (Walking Dickens London) focuses on all the different types of filth and dirt occupying London during this time, as well as the fight against it. This meticulously researched work covers all aspects of cleanliness during the late 1800s: garbage men, known as dustman; mud; soot; and even the unwashed bodies of the public. The author follows the paths of the government as they attempt to control the serious problem the city was facing, including images and political cartoons illustrating life during the worst of the Victorian period. Jackson makes it clear that although London residents were trying to make the city as modern as possible, society at large didn't fully understand the importance of cleanliness and wouldn't for a long time. Verdict Although occasionally dry and full of references to London committees that get a little dizzying at times, this account is ideal for those interested in an atypical look at London's social history. Jackson manages to make a disgusting topic much funnier than one would expect.-Rebecca Kluberdanz, GB65 Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

This is the book to cure any lingering nostalgia about Victorian London, or for any city of that age. Readers are reminded about how supremely uncomfortable and noxious the environment was, with coal fires, soot everywhere, vile air, and the stench of human and animal waste, not forgetting, of course, the odors from overcrowded London cemeteries where graves were recycled with alarming frequency. Jackson states that 300,000 horses in the 1890s provided a thousand tons of dung a day. Where should it go? There are chapters concerning the building of public toilets (women were usually shortchanged), smoke abatement, bathhouses, and new suburban cemeteries. The battle against filth was joined but hardly won. Who supervises and who pays? The irony is that Joseph Bazalgette's impressive system of sewage pipes kept the inner Thames from being an open sewer, but merely moved the waste downstream; much of it washed back on the tides. Jackson's book is a scholarly and exhaustively researched social history; although very detailed, it is fascinating and for all audiences. Even scholars of the period are likely to find surprises and think, "I had no idea!" Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. --Phillip T. Smith, Saint Joseph's University


Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 The Golden Dustmanp. 7
2 Inglorious Mudp. 27
3 Night Soilp. 46
4 Removable Causesp. 69
5 Vile Bodiesp. 105
6 The Great Unwashedp. 134
7 The Public Conveniencep. 155
8 Wretched Housesp. 181
9 The Veil of Sootp. 212
Epiloguep. 238
Notesp. 244
Bibliographyp. 270
Illustration Acknowledgementsp. 284
Acknowledgementsp. 285
Indexp. 287