Dirty Old London
by Lee Jackson
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Released: Oct. 15, 2015
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In Victorian London, filth was everywhere: horse traffic filled the streets with dung, household rubbish went uncollected, cesspools brimmed with "night soil," graveyards teemed with rotting corpses, the air itself was choked with smoke. In this intimately visceral book, Lee Jackson guides us through the underbelly of the Victorian metropolis, introducing us to the men and women who struggled to stem a rising tide of pollution and dirt, and the forces that opposed them.
Through thematic chapters, Jackson describes how Victorian reformers met with both triumph and disaster. Full of individual stories and overlooked details--from the dustmen who grew rich from recycling, to the peculiar history of the public toilet--this riveting book gives us a fresh insight into the minutiae of daily life and the wider challenges posed by the unprecedented growth of the Victorian capital.
Dirty Old London is a history of the sanitary movement in London in the 1800's. The author covered household refuse (trash/garbage), street mud (a mix of dirt, ash, dung, trash), night soil (from cesspools to sewers), corpses (changes in graveyards), bathing and laundry (how can the poor get clean?), public toilets (what to do when you just have to go!), soot (from boy sweeps to mechanical brushes), and attempts to clean up the slums including model housing for the poor.
The author talked about what had been done in the past, what people proposed should be changed and why, and what was actually done and where (since it didn't happen everywhere at once). We're given dates for when the idea was proposed and for the various tries that people made, so we see how long it took to make these changes--including changes in people's attitudes. There were quotes from government and association reports, newspapers and magazines, and even court cases.
I found the information easy to follow and extremely interesting. I'd recommend this book to people who are interested in how we "got to now" in terms of city and personal cleanliness in London and who want the details rather than a brief overview.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.