The story of London's Underground, by John R. Day and John Reed with historical consult with Desmond F. Croome and M. A. C. Horne, Tenth edition publish in 2008 by Capital Transport Publishing, Harrow, first published 1963.
This book contains a detailed study into the history of the Underground railway in London from the beginning of the Metropolitan Line in 1863 to a new section in this edition of the book that looks into the London Underground post 2000. It looks into the reasons behind the construction of the first subway in the world. Filled with original photography and statistics from the early life of the London Underground these opening chapters of the book provide a great deal of information that is easily identified. Set out in more of a chronological manner than a thematic one; the book continues to the construction of other new lines in the system, whilst still managing to balance in a good deal of information about opinions of passengers and workers. This style of writing throughout allows easy referencing for the reader as all information, both factual and opinions are able to be located with ease in the chapter you are reading.
The written contents of the book are written in a fair amount of detail over the two hundred and twenty four A4 pages. However there is a good balance of photographs to keep the interest and to demonstrate points that the authors are making. Although they have given their best effort to the cause, Day and Reed have still managed to leave some questions unanswered. They look a great deal into the ventilation issues of the early Metropolitan Line and then show solutions in the invention of the electric railway. The sections on how the underground was used during the war and the post-war sections provide interesting summaries of how the underground operated in the periods.
The authors have written this book in a very formative style to provide lots of information. The historical consults that were used in the writing of this book automatically give the reader a sense of Historiographical authority within the text. The authors are also using a large amount of primary evidence throughout the book. Examples of posters, documents and photographs are all used and make the dense text seem much less daunting to the casual and the academic reader.
There is little or no bias or misrepresentation of evidence to be found in this writing as none of it is written with opinion. The opinions to be found that have come through the form of primary or secondary opinions are there as supporting evidence of the facts rather than with any intent to try and sway the reader to a certain view point. I'm sure that some over power-boosted historical critic would happily argue that the position of and the primary source evidence used is there do start some form of historical bias, however I personally do not see this argument and feel that the book is laid out to avoid any such bias. The presence of strong factual evidence in this book would however allow one to take this evidence forward to present and support argument of their own.
This book has a great deal of strength for both academic and recreational reading. For an academic this book provides a decent chronological account of the events that took place in building and the day to day running of the London Underground. The primary evidence that is used throughout the book I keep chatting about is really a great strength for the academic reader and is an additional piece of information for the recreational to quote at a dinner party or discuss at their next coffee meeting. The use of photographs on almost ever page as well as posters relating to the underground is strength for both types of reader as well. What is in itself is photographic evidence of the development of the London Underground also for the non-academic puts the text into context and provides visual aids and additional interest. The book also has a very detailed index that enables the reader to find references to almost anything they needed to find or wanted to revisit within the text.
Sadly I feel as an academic base this books does have weakness in the lack of a historical argument. However when one thinks that this book was written to inform in it unsurprising that it lacks argument. Another issue I found with this book as a general note is the font size is particularly small. At times, especially if you are tired this made the book very hard to read. In addition the text is all blocked together making it hard to recover your place if lost. I would have also liked to see a section at the back with a year by year guide to the construction of the Underground.
Overall I would say that this book is an excellent way of getting a good overview of the London Underground from its earliest creation. For both the academic and recreational reading there is a lot of information put down over not many pages, and though at times the reading can be hard going, the insertion of photographs and other picture evidence keep the interest going. At times the reading is quiet heavy going due to the small font however for anyone with interest on the London Underground this book is a must have starting point.
Review By Christopher Obin.