Dirty Old London: the Victorian Fight against Filth
by Lee Jackson. Yale, 2014. £20. dirtyoldlondon.com
Review by Jonathan Manns
By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the British Empire was at its greatest extent, covering some 23 per cent of the surface of the globe. During the preceding century, the country’s imperial ambitions, mercantile culture and naval superiority, fuelled by the Industrial Revolution, had changed the world. The journey to reach this point also had profound domestic implications. The Victorians had reshaped London with a preoccupation for technology and sanitation; but for many citizens the experience remained, as Jack London described in 1903: “Helpless, hopeless, unrelieved, and dirty.” These experiences, which defined the daily life of everyday people, are the subject of Lee Jackson’s Dirty Old London.