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A visual guide to the wealth of London in 1889
on 23 September 2013
In this pack, two maps are included, representing west London and east London in 1889. Booth was a remarkable man who set out to assess how wealth was distributed across the main residential areas of London. His undertaking was staggering. Appalled by the poverty he witnessed in the dockland areas he set about colour coding every house in every street according to how well off the families who lived in them were. His lowest rank is "Lowest Class. Vicious, semi-criminal, going up to "Upper Middle and Upper Classes. Wealthy." Between the two he identified five classes to represent the "general condition of the inhabitants." The maps he created as a result of his research were used to tackle social problems derived from poverty, and to plan reforms.
The maps in this edition are presented in a card folder, each with its own envelope to protect it, connected by a spine. When you open the folder, the interior surfaces contain an introduction to Booth's maps, giving brief details of what London was like, what motivated Booth to create the maps and how they were used. It also expands on the keys shown on each map.
When you lie east and west side by side it is daunting to see how polarized they were in terms of poverty, with the east showing great areas at the blue (impoverished) end of the scale, whilst the yellow (the top end) are confined to the west (albeit with some blue patches crowded into nooks and crannies)
The maps are reproduced on good quality slightly shiny paper, with all-importantly good quality colour reproduction so that it is easy to make out which colours are which (Booth used incremental shades of blue and red, which could have been very difficult to distinguish from each other in an inferior quality edition). Road names are easy to pick out and a grid sits over the top (the space between the horizontal lines representing half a mile). This is a really excellent pair of maps and essential to anyone interested in late 1900s London.