Nineteenth-Century Slums

Following the Industrial Revolution, many families saw themselves relocating into large, mechanized cities in order to find new employment and opportunities. Family-run businesses could no longer compete with the technology and machinery developed in the industrialized cities, meaning that many families saw no option other than to move, or else risk starvation and death. However, although the prospect of moving to a newly industrialized city could have been seen as an exciting new development, albeit terrifying, many families saw no option but to resort to living in the slums in the cities. Overpopulation became a huge issue, leading to the development of slums in order to cater for the newfound, growing population in cities. The majority of poor families could not afford proper housing and were subject to terrible overcrowding, poverty, and diseases, leading to an unpleasant and horrific lifestyle for many families and workers in the nineteenth-century.

Many of the most notorious slums were located in East London, which was often referred to as ‘darkest London’. Families were often crammed into single rooms with no proper ventilation, sanitation or facilities, which further increased the spread of diseases and infections around the slums. The horrific conditions meant that the majority of Londoners refused to talk or address the problem, meaning that little was done until the twentieth century to fully clear slums and replace them with adequate housing.

Slums were often located down narrow alleys and dead-end courtyards, resulting in poor, damp conditions. Usually, a single tap was shared between hundreds of people, meaning that water-borne diseases such as cholera spread rapidly. London slums were epitomized in Charles Dicken’s literature, such as Oliver Twist, which reveals the dark underside of Victorian life for the poor.

From, The Victorian Blogger

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