Charles Booth was a prominent social reformer who sought to understand the relationship between poverty and crime in London from 1886-1903. Booth went on to found the Salvation Army as a result of his work in the London slums. Booth's 450 notebooks and maps provides one of the best sources for social/cultural historians. This material is now digitized and available to students and scholars from around the world. It is an absolutely essential resource for anyone working in this period.
One of my favorite rooms in the Museum of London is the room with Charles Booth's maps on the ground floor. I love standing in the room and looking at all of the intricate details. This project makes those maps available from the comfort of your home or office. What is most fascinating about this project is that it is easy to see the mixture of classes in the late 19th century. In one block, you find middle and upper classes alongside the "vicious, semi-criminal poor." This provides a new spatial orientation when considering/researching/teaching about the late 19th and early 20th century London.
The notebooks are divided into three categories: Police notebooks, Stepney Union casebooks, and Jewish notebooks. The Police notebooks are really useful as Booth sent his representatives along with the Metropolitan Police on patrol to observe the various neighborhoods of London. You can browse these by notebook or by neighborhood. The Jewish notebooks are equally valuable as they provide insight into the lives of the Jewish community in London at the turn of the century.
What to Know:
- This is an absolutely invaluable teaching tool. I use it when we discuss poverty, crime, and class in 19th century London.
- The search and browsing features work really well. I really like the ability to browse by neighborhood.
I am currently an Adjunct Professor of History at Lynchburg College in Virginia. I received my PhD in Modern British History from Florida State University in 2016. My research explores the way in which competing definitions of masculinity influenced army reform in the mid-nineteenth century. Civilians called for moral reforms; however, they were constantly hampered by politician and military officials' financial concerns. This work offers a number of interventions in the current historiography by exploring issues of corporal punishment, soldiers' sexuality, military suicide, and soldiers' families.