the World is under my feet

the World is under my feet
screen shot from the movie 'Elizabeth the Golden Age'

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Book: The Secret History Of Our Streets

Title: The Secret History of Our Streets, London: A Social History through the houses and streets we live in
Author: Joseph Bullman, Neil Hegarty and Brian Hill
Publisher: BBC Books
Year of publish: 2012
Place of publish: London
Edition: 1st Hardcover
ISBN: 978 1 849 90450 6
Size: 23.6cm x 16.2cm x 3.6cm, 352 pages
Price: £12.00 (original price £20.00)

dust cover and its spine

I did not have chance to watch the BBC's television series The Secret History of Our Streets but ordered this book which accompanied a TV programme.

Old post about this TV series

This book tells history of the history of 6 London streets and the people who lived there in order to unfold the change of the society and its social classes. It also introduces the social system to shape the city for the last 130 years: gentrification, migration, slum clearances, property speculation, and the rural being subsumed by a growing city (. These selected streets, or ‘areas’, in Central London are not as popular as the ones for commercial or tourist. They are: Reverdy Street, Deptford High Street, Arnold Circus, Caledonian Road, Portland Road and Camberwell Grove.

The book asks some questions of the ‘domestic intricacies of life as same as Charles Booth's influential 17-volume Life and Labour of the People in London, published between 1889 and 1903: how people lived and where and by what means their businesses, their properties and their communities functioned’ (p.17). It also intends to ‘interpret the evolving nature of London, and to frame it against its new, 2st-century world’ (p.18).

The well-known Poverty maps show the sorted London households into groups and classes with an individual colour:

1) Black: the worst slum proprieties, the 'vicious and semi-criminal' lowest class;
2) Dark blue: the very poor; causal, Chronic want;
3) Light blue: Poor, 18s to 21s a week for a moderate family;
4) Purple: Mixed, some comfortable, others poor;
5) Pink: Fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings;
6) Red: Middle class, well-to-do;
7) Yellow: the wealthy servant-keeping upper class

The second system, classified the Londoners' occupations, shows their wage, job and apparent standard of living. Booth's maps has its limitations in survey and research methods (p.12), for example, the colour red,linked onto a map of Deptford High Street and the one on Camberwell Grove did not mean the same. Other limitations and contradictions were, moreover, Booth surveyed people by discriminating their outlooks, their manner and the way in which they presented their homes and environment (p.13). It would form a certain level of bias.

Booth's personal background will not be discussed but details of his bibliography and the expendable Poverty maps can be checked at the online archive of the London School of Economics and Political Science of the University of London.

The Booth's Poverty maps are also available for mobile device:

BBC also produced a printed map 'A tourist's guide to our secret streetsfor this series cooperated with the Open University. The printed version, however, has been out of stock. Luckily the PDF version can be downloaded here.

image from Open University London page


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