Booth Poverty Map: Wandsworth (1900)

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Booth Poverty Map: Wandsworth (1900)


Colour printed lithograph, printed to the edges of the paper, as issued; linen-backed. Published in 1902 as part of Charles Booth's monumental survey Life and Labour in London.

Map size: approx 194mm x 320mm plus key.

Excellent condition throughout.  Original folds as issued. 

Charles Booth employed eighty people to walk the streets of London with policemen on their beats making notes relating to the relative poverty and wealth of various parts of London. Booth's final survey, undertaken between 1898 and 1899, investigated poverty, industry and religious influences and gives a valuable insight into the social conditions of London at that time. Booth was shocked at the degree of poverty, the main cause of which was established to be age; the elderly being unable to earn a living and so becoming a burden on their families. It was the findings of Booth's survey that contributed to the introduction of the Old Age Pension in 1908. His survey is especially notable for its pioneering maps, coloured according to the social conditions of the inhabitants, ranging from 'Lowest Class' (in some instances branded as 'Semi-Criminal, Vicious') to 'Wealthy'; embracing en route 'Very Poor', 'Moderate Poverty', 'Poverty and Comfort (mixed)', 'Fairly Comfortable', and 'Well-to-do'.

LIfe and Labour in London was first published in 1889 and ran to three editions; the last edition, published in 1902-3, comprised seventeen volumes. A contemporary newspaper review of Booth's survey stated:

'With the aid of his poverty map, brought up to date and cut into sections, Mr. Booth conducts his readers through the whole texture of this vast fabric of toiling human lives, carefully dissecting the various religious influences and, like a diver in deep seas, bringing up strange spoil... Each district is first described in general terms. Every street has been revisited for the charts of poverty. Parish by parish the investigation creeps over the great city till all is covered. The changes in the ten years' interval are dismally infrequent. A period of prolonged prosperity has failed to move the black to blue or the blue to red. "There has been no improvement in the ten years that have elapsed since my first visit," is an entry concerning a folorn district in South London which is written large over the whole series. Often bad areas have disappeared, but the neighbourhood around has grown insensibly darker. On the outskirts streets have arisen in distant suburbs that immediately deliquesce into the slum. Still impressive revelations of a life almost incredibly degraded startle the optimist and sadden the social reformer.'

Original Booth maps are now incredibly difficult to find, and their elusiveness has further increased since BBC4's 2012 series The Secret History of Our Streets, which used the maps to illustrate how present-day London has changed since Booth's survey.

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