The Morning Chronicle

Henry Mayhew was born in London in 1812. After a brief spell as a lawyer, Mayhew became a journalist and, in 1841, established a new journal - Punch - with fellow journalist Mark Lemon.

The summer of 1849 saw a serious and widespread outbreak of the water-borne disease cholera. In just three months, over 10,000 people died of the disease in London alone. In September 1849, Mayhew wrote a letter to The Morning Chronicle, providing details of a visit he made to the London district of Bermondsey. On Mayhew's suggestion, the editor of the newspaper commissioned an investigation into the living conditions of the working classes in England and Wales. As a result, at least one article appeared everyday for the rest of the year and for most of 1850. This dramatically raised the profile of the public health campaign.

This source is an extract taken from Mayhew's first letter to The Morning Chronicle. It was published by the paper on September 24th 1849. The extract refers in particular to an area of south London known as Jacob's Island, a notorious slum.

  • How has the media been used, in this case, to raise awareness about the living conditions of the people in Jacob's Island?
  • How does the language used differ from articles in today's newspapers? Which kind of language do you think is more effective?

Taken from: The Morning Chronicle
Date: 24th September 1849
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: LD16