The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum

Front Cover
Vintage, 2009 - London (England) - 333 pages
A brilliant new book about the seedy side of Victorian London by a talented young historian.
In 1887, government inspectors were sent to report on the horrifying, often lethal, living conditions of the Old Nichol, a notorious 15-acre slum in London s East End. Among much else, they found that the rotting 100-year-old houses were some of the most lucrative properties in the capital for their absent slumlords. Peers of the Realm, local politicians, churchmen and lawyers were making profits on these death-traps of as much as 150 per cent per annum. Before long, Old Nichol became a focus of public attention: its 6,000 inhabitants were condemned for their drunkenness and criminality. The solution to the problem lay in internment camps, some said, or forced emigration even eugenics.
The Blackest Streets focuses on the last fifteen years of the nineteenth century, a turbulent period in London s history, when revolution was very much in the air when unemployment, agricultural depression and a crackdown on parish relief provided a breeding ground for communists and anarchists.
Sarah Wise explores the real lives behind the statistics, excavating the Old Nichol from the ruins of history, laying bare the social and political conditions that created and sustained this black hole at the very heart of the Empire.

"From the Hardcover edition.""

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About the author (2009)

Sarah has been a Londoner since the age of 14. She has a BA in English Literature and a Masters degree in Victorian Studies, from Birkbeck College, University of London.
Her book The Blackest Streetswas published by Bodley Head in June 2008 and was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize in May 2009; it was a Book of the Year in the Sunday Telegraphand The Economistand for BBC Radio 4's Saturday Reviewprogramme. Her debut, The Italian Boy- Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London, was published in 2004 and was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction.

She lives in central London and is currently working on her third book - about 19th-century asylums.

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