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The Blackest Streets.

The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum. Sarah Wise. The Bodley Head. [pounds sterling]20.00. xii + 333 pages. ISBN 978-0-224-07175-8. When cities grow rapidly within relatively short periods they produce slums, usually in the centre or in the older parts--assuming cheap transport makes it possible for the city to spread outwards. The majority in the nineteenth century, whose wages rose as the cost of living fell, moved outwards. Those at the bottom of the heap stayed behind and were joined by the end of the century by immigrants from the Russian Empire and elsewhere. These slums were truly horrific despite repeated attempts by private individuals such as Octavia Hill, Peabody and Burdett-Coutts to improve things. In this moving study the author has concentrated on London's 'Old Nichol', a fifteen-acre slum in the East End. She 'fleshes out' the stories of those who survived in these over-crowded and disease-ridden buildings. She confines herself to the last fifteen years of the century when those who went into the slum tried and sometimes succeeded in improving matters. (R.G.C.)
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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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