Booth's London Poverty Map

During the 1800s, a great proportion of Londoners lived in terrible poverty. Victorian cities were overcrowded, filthy and bleak.

Charles Booth, a successful businessman, created this map in the late 1800s. Booth believed that social reformers had exaggerated London's poverty levels - studies made at the time estimated that a quarter of the population lived in unacceptable conditions. In 1886, Booth decided to find out the truth of the matter, and began work on a new study of London's poor. His research revealed that the reality was even worse than official figures suggested: as many as one third of Londoners lived in poverty.

Booth's study was published in 17 volumes under the title 'Life and Labour of the People in London'. This map was included in the published work. Using a colour code, the map represents varying levels of poverty in different districts across London: for example, Dark blue stands for 'Very poor. Casual, chronic want', while Black stands for 'Lowest class. Vicious, semi criminal.'

Booth's study took into account a wide variety of subjects: working conditions, education, wage levels, workhouses, religion, and police, to name a few. As part of his research Booth lived with working-class families for several weeks at a time. He wrote of the many happy children he met who were, he wrote, free from the swarms of servants, nurses and governesses that overshadowed the lives of wealthier children. However, he recognised that for poor families disease, hunger and even death were an ever-present danger, and that many lived in a constant state of fear.

For further information about Charles Booth go to the Charles Booth Online Archive .

These images were kindly provided by the Booth archive at LSE.

Taken from: Life and Labour of the People in London
Author / Creator: Charles Booth
Date: 1903
Copyright: By permission of the British Library