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Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight…

Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth

by Lee Jackson

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London in the 19th Century was a dirty place. Reliance on coal made air pollution a problem and the burgeoning population meant that waste from humans was an ever growing issue. In this book Lee Jackson explores how the Victorians approached dealing with the different forms of dirt and the impact that changes had on society.

From the plight of chimney sweeps to the 'Great Stink', this is a comprehensive look at the different forms of 'dirt' produced and the ever inventive ways that the Victorians had of dealing with it. How the garden cemeteries of London were a commercial venture spurred on by the disinterment of half rotted corpses in church graveyards, how sewers and baths became the norm rather than the exception and sad story of the women who shared single dresses and couldn't leave the house - Jackson has meticulously researched the facts and provides the evidence. This is an incredibly readable and entertaining book which has some key messages for society now as well. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
If you are fastidious, don't like filth or stench, then you would have not wanted to live in Victorian times as there was plenty of both and even if you were wealthy it was no protection as there was no avoiding either! This is a really well researched book, filled with everything you could possibly want to know about this subject. There was a lot of fascinating information about grime, soot, toilets, housing, washing clothes and bodies etc, but there was also a lot about this or that committee, so and so said/did this, somebody else did that which wasn't nearly so interesting and I ended up skim reading these sections. The photos don't work too well on a kindle which is a shame. It is still worth reading this title to get a great insight as to how our forebears lived. ( )
  boudicca123 | Feb 8, 2017 |
A gloriously eccentric book in which the author delves into the life of 18th century London by vigorously exploring its water supply, sewage system, garbage collection, slums, and graveyards. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Feb 7, 2017 |
What a completely fascinating book! Post Victorian Era America and England is my absolutely favorite time period to learn about, and though this takes place place a bit before that (roughly from the 1830's-1880's) I have still come across mentions of how vile a place London was to live in and visit during this time. This book went in depth discussing the reasons why it was so filthy, and how the lack-luster "sanitation movement" tried to fix some of these issues with mixed success.

And I mean in depth. The one area I might complain about is just how much detail you get on the political dealings that went along with trying to push these improvements through. Not that they weren't important and fun to read about, but there were a couple of spots where I felt a bit bored by exactly how much detail was being given that didn't necessarily have to do with the main point of the piece.

Even so, the topics covered are wide and varied and could honestly be read by themselves for the most part (though most chapters mention Chadwick who was heavily involved in a lot of the issues). For example, Lee Jackson covers:
- The dust, mud and other nastiness on the roads.
- The water supply and how waste was disposed of Easily the most disgusting moments of the book are found in this section.
- Graveyards and burial practices Must see Abney Park now!
- The bathing and cleanliness (or lack thereof) at every class level, but especially the poor
- Public restrooms, and the lack of such for women. Probably my favorite chapter! It's incredible how reluctant they were to create these "conveniences"!
- The prevalence of soot from homes and the industrial complexes that were springing up. This was obviously worse in the north of England, but in London it was pretty bad as well apparently.
- The first attempt at government subsidized housing. Probably the least successful chapter for me personally.

So all-in-all this was an absolutely fascinating read, and I would highly suggest it to anyone who is interested in the subject or the time period. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't enjoy it because it is quite dry, and not in narrative form, but it truly is an interesting time in history.

Copy courtesy of Yale University Press, London, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  GoldenDarter | Sep 15, 2016 |
Fascinating insight of the lives of Victorian Londoners, their day to day living in the squalor and the architexts, workers and reformers who endeavoured to make their lives that much better.
A great read!
This digital copy was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review. ( )
  Welsh_eileen2 | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300192053, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:33 -0400)

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