Lee Jackson is a celebrated ‘Victorianist’ who knows London as well as any cab driver. He has previously given us A Dictionary of Victorian London and Walking Dickens’ London. Now he has written a dark and faeculent history of the mud-spattered underbelly of the great waddling beast. Jackson has a keen eye for human behaviour, and his descriptions of the suffering of the poor in this often nightmarish environment are genuinely horrifying and moving.
As with any Third World megalopolis today, London’s biggest problem in the 19th century was population growth, which far outstripped developments in its infrastructure. Between 1801 and 1901, the population increased from one to over six million, but housing stock, drains and sewers lagged far behind. The result was untold