Cities in chaos


  • Intro

    The population of Britain grew rapidly during the 1700s, from around 5 million people in 1700 to nearly 9 million by 1801. Many people left the countryside in order to seek out new job opportunities in nearby towns and cities. Most towns were grimy, over-crowded and generally unsanitary places to be. London in particular suffered badly from dirt and pollution; so much so that candles were sometimes required at midday in busy shops owing to the smoggy conditions outside.  Many travellers noted the 'smell' of London as they approached from far away, and letters received from the capital city were often said to have a 'sooty' odour.


    This print by William Hogarth shows the chaos of the city streets. The network of narrow allies and lanes had remained largely unchanged in many towns since medieval times. Crowds swarmed in every thoroughfare. Scores of street sellers 'cried' goods from place to place, advertising the wealth of goods and services on offer.


    Shelfmark: tab583.f.13.

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