Step-by-step guide to Booth’s London survey
Find out more about your family in the capital with this excellent Victorian resource
This survey into the life and labour of the people in London from 1886 to 1903 is held by The London School of Economics and is fully searchable by name, place and occupation.
Step one: Go to http://booth.lse.ac.uk. By reading the introductory guide to the collection, the sheer scope and size of the survey is apparent. It also shows how the data was collected and collated. Booth organised his inquiry into three broad sections, covering poverty, industry and religious (and moral/ social) influences on the lives of Londoners. He made meticulous classifications to analyse his findings, including these categories for the causes of pauperisation.
Step two: The casebooks provide a wealth of information for family history, providing plenty of personal details of the people who were investigated. The workhouse books include people who were living there as well as those in receipt of out-relief. Many of these were receiving assistance through agencies associated with the Charity Organisation Society (COS), whose initials were sometimes interpreted as ‘Cringe Or Starve’ because of its regulations.
Step three: The police notebooks provide a graphic street-by-street description of the areas covered by Booth’s inquiry. Each entry has a drawing of the area covered, and you can click on these to bring up a page showing its location on Booth’s map and a modern one. Social investigators accompanied London bobbies on their beats and what they saw resulted in Booth’s famous ‘poverty maps’. The colour coding ranged from black for poorer streets to yellow for affluent ones.
Words by Doreen Hopwood
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