Social conditions in the 19th-century port
'Life and Labour of the London Poor'
Not all writing on the slums was as sensationalist as Mearns's. The first volume of Life and Labour of the London Poor, Charles Booth's 17-volume study, appeared in 1892.
Booth's study was the first to examine the problems of poverty in general rather than by looking at specific individual harrowing cases as Mearns had done. Booth divided the poor into different categories depending on earnings and occupation.
Booth's surveys caused a storm in liberal circles. His scientific, if somewhat cold approach, left the public in no doubt about the degradation that existed in the East End. In one part of the survey he described a typical dock labourer's family, in the folloqwing words.
Illness and poverty
This is the poorest case on my list, but is typical of a great many others. The man, Michael H___, is a casual dock-labourer aged 38, in poor health, fresh from the infirmary. His wife of 43 is consumptive. A son of 18, who earns 8 shillings [40p] regular wages as carman's boy, and two girls of 8 and 6, complete the family.
Their house has four rooms but they let two. Father and son dine from home. The neighbouring clergy send soup 2 or 3 times a week, and practically no meat is bought. It figures the first Sunday only… Beyond the dinners out, and the soup at home, the food consists principally of bread,
Booth described their home:
I suppose the two rooms in which the family live will be those on the ground floor - bedroom (used sometimes as a parlour) to the front, kitchen, where they eat and sit, to the back.
In the kitchen the son will sleep, his parents and sisters occupying the front room. Neither of these rooms will exceed 10 ft square.
He then described their food:
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