The Eternal Slum
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The Eternal Slum : Housing and Social Policy in Victorian London

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The problem of how, where, and on what terms to house the urban masses in an industrial society remains unresolved to this day. In nineteenth-century Victorian England, overcrowding was the most obvious characteristic of urban housing and, despite constant agitation, it remained widespread and persistent in London and other great cities such as Manchester, Glasgow, and Liverpool well into the twentieth century. The Eternal Slum is the first full-length examination of working-class housing issues in a British town. The city investigated not only provided the context for the development of a national policy but also, in scale and variety of response, stood in the vanguard of housing reform. The failure of traditional methods of social amelioration in mid-century, the mounting storm of public protest, the efforts of individual philanthropists, and then the gradual formulation and application of new remedies, constituted a major theme: the need for municipal enterprise and state intervention.
Meanwhile, the concept of overcrowding, never precisely defined in law but based on middle-class notions of decency and privacy, slowly gave way to the positive idea of adequate living space, with comfort, as much as health or morals, the criterion. Not just dwellings but people were at issue. There is little evidence in this period of the attitude of the worker himself to his housing. Wohl has extensively researched local archives and, in particular, drawn on the vestry reports which have been relatively neglected. Profusely illustrated with contemporary photographs and drawings, this book is the definitive study of the housing reform movement in Victorian and Edwardian London and suggests what it was really like to live under such appaling conditions. This important study will be of interest to social historians, British historians, urban planners, and those interested in how social policies developed in previous eras.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 412 pages
  • 153.9 x 224 x 28.4mm | 671.33g
  • Taylor & Francis Inc
  • Transaction Publishers
  • Somerset, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 1, black & white illustrations
  • 0765808706
  • 9780765808707
  • 2,229,727

Review quote

-The Eternal Slum remains as important and original today as it did when it was first published nearly twenty-five years ago. In vivid and accessible prose, Wohl makes the dreariest of subjects - the abject squalor and misery in the slums of Victorian London - come alive. Combining meticulous social [and] historical analysis of housing with keen attention to the ways in which slums and slum-dwellers were represented, Wohl expertly traces the genesis of housing policies and politics in Victorian Britain.- --Seth Koven, Villanova University "The Eternal Slum remains as important and original today as it did when it was first published nearly twenty-five years ago. In vivid and accessible prose, Wohl makes the dreariest of subjects - the abject squalor and misery in the slums of Victorian London - come alive. Combining meticulous social [and] historical analysis of housing with keen attention to the ways in which slums and slum-dwellers were represented, Wohl expertly traces the genesis of housing policies and politics in Victorian Britain." --Seth Koven, Villanova University "The Eternal Slum remains as important and original today as it did when it was first published nearly twenty-five years ago. In vivid and accessible prose, Wohl makes the dreariest of subjects - the abject squalor and misery in the slums of Victorian London - come alive. Combining meticulous social [and] historical analysis of housing with keen attention to the ways in which slums and slum-dwellers were represented, Wohl expertly traces the genesis of housing policies and politics in Victorian Britain." --Seth Koven, Villanova University
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About Anthony S. Wohl

Anthony S. Wohl was born in London in 1937. He read history at Cambridge before turning his attention to the subject of this book for his PhD at Brown University in Rhode Island. He has taught at Vassar College since 1963 and is now Ellery Professor of History there. He has served terms as a visiting lecturer to the Universities of Leicester and British Columbia. He is also author of Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian and Edwardian England and editor of The Bitter Cry of Outcast London, The Victorian Family: Structure and Stresses, and Ragged London in 1861.
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