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4.1 out of 5 stars15
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 3 July 2011
This book is an interesting read for anyone with a taste for the alternate history of Victorian London.This bookdeals with London lowlife:thieves,prostitutes,beggars,baby farmers etc.It isn't an easy read;the tone is at times dry and dusty,occasionally hysterical~but then flares into an absolutely brilliant observation of life,worthy of a Dickens novel.
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on 29 March 2012
It's a good book, an interesting and challenging read, if purely for the hilarity of the purple prose. Greenwood wasn't shy of using 10 pages where a paragraph would have been more than adequate! James Greenwood was a famous social explorer who was clearly disgusted by his 'inferiors' in social class and wealth and he cannot help his prejudices glare through. He takes the classic Victorian high moral tone of his time and works it until it bleeds. I spent much of time reading this book (and it is fascinating, don't get me wrong) getting angry at the way he jumps on his high horse and basically flogs the working classes fallen on difficult times (at one point Greenwood states the weekly wage for an adult agricultural worker was 19 shillings (just over 90 pence or $1.45) without apparently realising that the majority of the population was being worked to death in an economic climate that offered nothing to the worker than life long poverty and nothing at all once their useful working life was over. Greenwood doesn't appear to recognise that crime and criminality are the last recourse of the very desperate and starvation was the only alternative. He offers no criticsm of the economic and social system inequalities that created the desperate conditions he describes and few solutions.
It is a great read for the committed social historian or anthropologist. Might be good for the odd social worker who reckons he/she has it tough too.

So much for my blast at Mr Greenwood (he died as recently as 1929 so lived to see the Great War and the Spanish Flu panademic which did much to end the disgusting conditions he so eloquently describes). What really ended the terrible things he describes? Simple. Abolition of the workhouse system, the Old Age Pensions Act 1908, the National Health Service Act 1946 and the National Assistance Act 1947.
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on 1 April 2015
I read this a chapter at a time which suited it's journalistic roots. Lots to ponder, and by early 21st century the 'curses' are now nation-wide. Exploring the roots of urban welfare dependency and realising how little has changed was quite depressing. Slap a TV in the corner of much of this and you have a picture of modern Britain. Saddest of all was the plight of the infant paupers, which was a powerful chapter. The depictions of vagrants in the final chapter resembled to me forerunners of modern benefit tourists while the descriptions of the feckless and dissolute might as well have been contemporary accounts of the confirmed never-working. The final curse is 'waste of charity', and this is the one that makes me question what the welfare state has allowed itself to be degraded to. That which set out to reflect the best aspirations of the workers has been corrupted to preserve a grotesque native underclass, a taxpayer subsidy for greedy entrepreneurs paying minimum wage and an attraction to a new type of vagrant drawn to the rich pot of social housing and easy benefits. I don't think we need to add to the Victorian curses until we've made more progress on the old ones.
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on 6 September 2013
Harrowing reading in places, if you are a lover of history you will enjoy this book. It is not for the faint hearted though.
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on 13 March 2015
A very difficult storyline to understand in this format. A book that is hard to read continuously, regular breaks are a must or the reader could lose the plot.
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on 14 May 2014
Not completed this book yet but, although interesting, can be a bit heavy going in parts. It gives a fair insight into a bygone age.
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on 23 April 2013
A revealing insight into the murky world below the Empires pomp and wealth, Little has changed and probably never will.
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on 4 May 2014
A first rate book giving a lot of insight into the history of Victorian life and conditions that people endured
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on 27 April 2015
For anyone studying Victorian London this is a good read and James Greenwood is definitely worth following.
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on 17 March 2016
Very good and thought provoking
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