From ‘vicious and semi criminal’ to the wealthy upper classes – Charles Booth’s Poverty Map of London added to interactive website

Thursday 16 May 2019
Booth Poverty Map showing the Strand. The dark blue sections south west of Lincoln's Inn Fields were areas of severe poverty

 

Layers of London, an interactive map-based project at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), has collaborated with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to include The Booth Poverty Map, which records a survey of the socio-economic conditions of the residents of London between 1886 and 1903, as a map layer to be explored online.  

‘We are very happy to share the Booth Poverty Map online as part of Layers of London, as it will enable this fascinating map to be explored in conjunction with other important maps of the metropolis for the first time,’ says Neil Stewart, LSE Digital Library manager. ‘This is the first stage of a collaborative project that will see online users help us make it a digitally searchable map as well.

‘The map captures the socio-economic profile of London, and is enriched by very detailed notebooks recording observations about London’s residents towards the end of the Victorian era. The extent of information provided is rare, and we are proud that in 2016 the archive of Charles Booth’s Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London was inscribed into UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.‘

Using the Booth Poverty Map to understand London

Exploring the Booth Poverty Map online through the Layers of London website allows direct comparison with other maps of London and its environs, enabling people to draw parallels between economic conditions and the changing urban form of the city.  For example, important links can be made between poor areas of the metropolis and municipal urban developments such as ‘slum clearances’.

‘This is an extraordinary map – providing insights about how people lived in the late 19th century, and a snapshot of the socio-economic conditions in London at the time,’ adds Professor Matthew Davies of Birkbeck, University of London and director of the Layers of London project.

‘It was really pioneering – most maps focused on recording buildings, whereas this one was all about people. Those looking at the map today will be struck by Booth’s classification of society using categories ranging from “lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal” and “very poor, casual, chronic want” to “upper-middle and upper classes. Wealthy”. Apart from being of interest to the general public, we expect the map to add a great deal to our school engagement programme given its social value.’

Other maps on the Layers of London website

The website comprises a number of significant maps. Currently, the earliest is a map of the City of London in 1520. Others recently added are the London County Council Bomb Damage Map (1939–1945), detailing the extent and severity of WWII bomb damage, the Horwood Map (1799) showing 18th-century London building by building, and the Greenwood Map (1828), recording the city’s 19th-century expansion in detail. Apart from extensive new areas of London in the south, it specifies landmarks such as New London Bridge, standing alongside its medieval predecessor, Old London Bridge, which was demolished in 1831.

Online access to the Booth Poverty Map

To get to the map you need to visit the Layers of London website. Click on ‘Map’ at the top of the homepage, then click on ‘layer tools’ at the bottom left of the map and click on ‘choose new layers’. Select the Booth Poverty Map Layer and then click ‘close’ on the upper right of your screen. The general map of London will now show the Booth Poverty Map, although you may have to zoom in to see it in detail.

Ends

For further information, please contact Seif El Rashidi seif.elrashidi@sas.ac.uk / +44 (0) 20 7862 8705

Notes for Editors 

  1. The Booth Poverty Map is available online at www.Layersoflondon.org. The Map and digitised note books can also be found at https://booth.lse.ac.uk/.
     
  2. Layers of London, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Institute of Historical Research Trust, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, comprises an ambitious website that makes key historic maps available online and a dynamic engagement programme to encourage schools, community groups, archives and individuals to share information about the people, places and communities they know. It is led by the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, in partnership with a number of institutions including London Metropolitan Archives, The Museum of London Archaeology, The British Library, Birkbeck, Historic England, The National Archives, and the National Library of Scotland. www.Layersoflondon.org
     
  3. The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) studies the social sciences in their broadest sense, with an academic profile spanning a wide range of disciplines, from economics, politics and law, to sociology, information systems and accounting and finance. The School has an outstanding reputation for academic excellence and is one of the most international universities in the world. Its study of social, economic and political problems focuses on the different perspectives and experiences of most countries. From its foundation LSE has aimed to be a laboratory of the social sciences, a place where ideas are developed, analysed, evaluated and disseminated around the globe. Visit for more information.