Charles Booth's London Poverty Map


Charles Booth, a shipowner, sought to refute socialist allegations that a quarter of London’s population lived in poverty. He thought this exaggerated, but his research, published in 17 volumes, revealed that the true figure was even higher at one third.

Here his extensive survey is presented in cartographical form with the levels of poverty colour coded. For example, dark blue represents 'Very poor. Casual, chronic want', while black stands for 'Lowest class. Vicious, semi criminal.' This sometimes conceals as much as it reveals. The purple of the mixed areas obscured much poverty while domestic servants in the yellow areas would hardly have been wealthy. Although Booth has no qualms about labelling the very poorest areas ’vicious semi-criminal’, no comments are made about the ethics of the rich.

Full title:
Descriptive Map of London Poverty
1889-90; 1898, London
Map / Image
Charles Booth
Held by:
British Library
Maps C.21.a.18.(295). SE sheet

Related articles

The Cries of London

Article by:
The Gentle Author
Reading and print culture, London, Poverty and the working classes

The Gentle Author explores William Marshall Craig’s Cries of London prints, which portray the realities of life for street traders in the early 19th century.

The built environment

Article by:
Liza Picard

Liza Picard examines how industrialisation altered the building of cities and affected the different social classes living within them.


Article by:
Judith Flanders
Poverty and the working classes, London

Judith Flanders examines the state of housing for the 19th-century urban poor, assessing the ‘improvements’ carried out in slum areas and the efforts of writers, including Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew, to publicise such living conditions.

Related collection items