PortCities London

Social conditions in the 19th-century port

Social investigation

A political issue?

Boys from Snowfields School in Bermondsey
View full size imageBoys from Snowfields School in Bermondsey, 1894. © NMM

As the 19th century progressed journalists and social reformers carried out surveys in the East End. These revealed the full extent of the plight of the poor.

The studies were part of a new emphasis given to social investigation into the extent and causes of poverty in large industrial cities. They also examined solutions to the problems.

Fear of unrest

Gentleman giving alms to a beggar.
View full size imageA gentleman giving alms to a beggar. © NMM

A series of riots, including the 1887 'Bloody Sunday' demonstration against unemployment, sparked fears of social unrest. These concerns were further fuelled by sensational press reports about life in the East London slums.

Issues such as crime, unemployment and poverty were now very much on the political agenda.