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Life and Labour of the People in London, Charles Booth Survey

Nature of Source

Records from a private report and enquiry into the levels of poverty in London entitled the Life and Labour of the People in London. The report was set up in 1886 by the nonconformist Unitarian businessman and shipping magnate Charles Booth. The seventeen-volume report, condensed from 392 notebooks, was published between 1889 and 1903 in three series, 'Poverty' (1889), 'Industry' and 'Religious Influences' (1902). Notable Fabians Beatrice and Sidney Webb, founders of London School of Economics and Political Science otherwise known as the London School of Economics or the LSE, were amongst the researchers. Hence the survey is now held at the LSE. Volumes of the work are available to view online or download at the Internet Archive.

The survey classified each street into a number of social classes based on income and poverty levels with further reports on the working life of Londoners and religious activity in the city. The report also includes the original survey notebooks containing the observations of policemen whilst out on the beat and other interviews including those with clergymen.

The report was accompanied by a series of 12 maps, Maps Descriptive of London Poverty 1898-1899, with colour coding illustrating the various levels of prosperity and poverty. Some streets names and personal names in the printed volumes, especially in the poorest districts, were falsified to protect the identity of those subjected to the enquiry.

Also consult other 20th century poverty surveys held at the LSE. For example the New Survey of London Life and Labour 1930-1935 is held at The British Library of Political and Economic Science (LSE).

Where Found

Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science (The Charles Booth Online Archive is a searchable resource giving access to archive material from the Booth collections of the Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Senate House Library. The collection at LSE Library contains the original records from Booth's survey into life and labour in London, dating from 1886 to 1903. The archives of the Senate House Library contain Booth family papers from 1799 to 1967)
University of Liverpool Library (Special Collections & Archives: Booth Papers: A collection comprising 25 boxes of manuscript and typescript copy, corrected proofs, maps and other material [1887-1903] by Charles Booth and others for Life and Labour of the People in London. The typescripts include Ernest Ave's amendments and unpublished material)

Period Covered

1889 - 1903

Genealogical Value

Names, addresses, places, maps

Further References

Booth's Maps of London Poverty: East and West 1889, Bloomsbury Publishing: Shire and Old House  
O'Day, Rosemary & Englander, David. Mr Charles Booth's Inquiry: Life and Labour of the People in London Reconsidered: Hambledon Press, 1993 (Available to preview at Google Books)  

Websites (LSE Library: Charles Booth’s London-mapping Victorian lives) (AIM25 entry describing the history of the Charles Booth Archive) (LSE Archives Catalogue entry describing the Charles Booth Archive) (Archives Hub: Catalogue description of the Booth Papers held at the University of Liverpool Library)

Online Databases (Charles Booth Online Archive: From the site it is possible to search or browse the Booth map, view onscreen digitised police notebooks and search the survey notebooks and order copies. It is possible to search the notebooks for streets, postcodes and wards from the year 2000 and landmarks and parishes in 1898. The contents of Charles Booth Online can also be searched at Connected Histories together with a number of other databases) (Flickr Commons LSE Library; Charles Booth Maps: Access to digitised maps from of Charles Booth's Inquiry into Life and Labour In London) (Charles Booth's Descriptive Map of London Poverty, 1889)