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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 30 November 2003
I first read this fine book as a spotty teenager, it blew me away. I re-read it recently as a 30-something - and it blew me away again.
It is at heart a study of poor people in east Manchester in the early 20th Centure (where and when Roberts was growing up).
In my opinion, it provides insight into the poor of all cities, in all ages. Roberts is better on the nature or poor life than Orwell, Dickens, et al. For instance, he says working men in the terrible slums tended to avoid books - even when they were able to read - because they were afraid that other men would consider them effeminate.
There isn't a single inarticulate sentence. A great and sadly under-rated work.
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on 26 June 2000
i read this book on my honeymoon, it's beautifully and truthfully written and utterly evocative of the period. you don't need to be social historian to enjoy this book, but you will want to read more social history after it. so affecting, heartbreaking, yey quite unsentimental. i simply couldn't put it down until i'd finished it.
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on 29 October 2003
I read this book at college about 20 years ago, and looked everywhere for it since. It's nice to see it in print again so others can enjoy it. The author gives an account of life in Manchester in the first 20 years of the last century, and manages to bring this period to life. This is no dry history book, and is an ideal read for anyone wanting to know more about the more recent past.
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on 12 November 2010
An amazing account of a different world holding different people who lived and died and did all manner of things differently. I have never fully understood how people kept so far down the social pecking order could remain so loyal and patriotic - especially as it was often a hand to mouth existence. Roberts' narrative explains all manner of things about the era and its people including this. His style is easy and accessible - yet knowledgeable and erudite. A first class read - couldn't put it down!
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on 9 September 2014
What a book...a lucid, well written and thought provoking memoir of the author's youth in one of the most deprived areas in the country. This neck of the woods was written about and has appeared in social studies but I prefer to have the stories from the source. The author superbly takes you back with him to the smells, dirt and characters of the early 20th century with a mixture of humour and matter-of-factness that many novelists strive for. I laughed out loud at the episode with the cat and his dad's dinner...well worth it for this alone!
A remarkable reminiscence that is in no way mawkish or sentimental, and should stir anyone who reads it into doing more research and into action against the system that keeps people in poverty for its own end. Poverty is of course relative, but it stands today that it exists in all countries.
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on 7 February 2012
The Classic Slum: Salford Life in the First Quarter of the Century

Told from the heart and a first hand account too. No historian stifly telling us what was happening by just going over statistics. This was told with fond and not so fond memories from somebody who had lived through and experienced what was going on around him. Heart warming and heart breaking in places. If you're interested in this period of history then I'd strongly recommend this book. It also makes one think where our parents and grand-parents derive their own "ways" too.
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on 9 February 2008
Agree with reviewer who wrote " Roberts portrayal of poor better than Orwell and Dickens".
Written with his real life experience. This is an
Absorbing interesting detailed factual account without any hint of dullness or sentimentality.
Realistic down to earth evocation of a time and ( mind Set) thankfully we can look back to without the rose tinted spectacles.
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on 12 March 2014
This book is a good piece of social history, written in a style that makes it accessible and interesting to a very wide audience.

It differs from those books which contain the ramblings of someone with false memory sysndrome. This book is based on the author's personal experience but he has taken the bother to carry out background research with which he has augmented it.

Apart from a general audience, it should compulsory reading for undergraduate social and economic history students.
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on 9 June 2015
If you are interested in the social conditions that led to the founding of the UK's welfare state, read this. It would seem that the current UK Government (2015) wants to reel back the years to this time again. The stories in this book will tell you why that is such a bad idea. Really well written, but not in sociological English, this is a must-read for anyone studying community or social work.
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on 9 February 2015
If the measure of a good book is it's memorability and the impact it makes on your life, then this is truly a classic. I first read this as a teenager (not yesterday, by any means), but it has lived with me since ... a compassionate, honest and often chilling account of working class life in what many people still fondly - and mistakenly - refer to as 'the good old days'. Beware: this is a book to make you think and it may even cause you to change your mind about some things!
May I also add an encouragement to you to read Robert Roberts' short memoire, 'A Ragged Schooling'? It is an account of Roberts' own early years in Salford and gives a personal perspective on the conditions outlined in 'The Classic Slum'. No miz-lit here, but a moving and insightful account by someone who, even as a child, seems to have viewed the slum life around him with intelligence and compassion ... and who had the drive and ability to make his escape.
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