- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; paperback / softback edition (July 25, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486440060
- ISBN-13: 978-0486440064
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The London Underworld in the Victorian Period: Authentic First-Person Accounts by Beggars, Thieves and Prostitutes (v. 1) Paperback – July 25, 2005
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The thing that made me put down the book while reading only the first chapter was the misogyny and sexism. The author of that section, who's a doctor examining the problem of prostitution in London, keeps saying that women have only one thing to offer in the world - their virginity - and that women are all basically whores. Those ideas are bad enough now but to see them in fuller force back then and imagining them slicing all the way through history was just a little too much to take. I might try again to push past it and think of the hope for the future. Maybe the part examining thievery would be interesting.
The accounts are fascinating in and of themselves. I was ready for a lot of one-sided moralising from the author, Mayhew, but he has (had?) a very modern approach to the plight of London's poor. It was a pleasant surprise to realise that people of the era could see and understand the social injustice of the time.
Having read the words of the beggars, thieves and prostitutes, it is difficult to understand how some of them (particularly the prostitutes) could have done anything other than what they did. I feel almost as if I know them now - this book is the next best thing to actually meeting and speaking with these people.
Best of all I never felt like I was ploughing through the book, working to get an understanding of the people. I raced through the book, fascinated. Later I went back, re-reading certain parts.
More than worth the price.
Personally, for a survey of the side of London that Merchant Ivory films tend to miss, this book isn't the way to go.
Ideally, this should be a resource for Sociologists like Dalrymple or perhaps criminologists.
The extensive statistics and, frankly, difficult to decipher language of that time, make for a tedious read for the layperson.