Booth’s Poverty Map of London’s East EndSKU: 9305
Booth’s Poverty Map of London’s East End
Date of publication:
36 x 48.5 cm
This is a first edition of Charles Booth’s 1887 ‘Descriptive Map of East End Poverty, Compiled from School Board Reports’
Charles Booth’s poverty maps of London were the most distinctive and original aspect of his socio-economic survey of the metropolis. Shaded to show degrees of wealth and class street by street, they have become defining images of late Victorian London. A set of four larger maps covering the whole of the built-up area accompanied the second volume of the series in 1891, but this map of the East End marked the first occasion on which Booth’s revolutionary new methodology was presented to the public in published form.
The mapmaker and his method
Booth chose to begin his work in the East End as he expected to prove that other social reformers were guilty of exaggeration in claiming that a quarter of Eastenders were living in poverty. The results of his survey are presented in the graphic at the foot of this map: by his own reckoning the true figures were over a third, but to his great credit Booth was willing to change his mind with the facts. The Education Act 1870 had made elementary schooling compulsory and Booth made extensive use of the first-hand knowledge of School Visitors, who were tasked with visiting every household to ensure that all children aged between 5 and 12 were attending school, and to assess the ability of each family to pay fees. Booth’s investigators compiled this information in a standard format. Booth continued to apply the system of colour-coding presented here, although the category 'Very poor, lowest class... Vicious, semi-criminal' was later amended to ‘Lowest Class’. Yellow was reserved for ‘wealthy’, but there is no yellow on this map.
Condition & materials
First edition, folding lithographed map, 36 x 48.5 cm, printed in colours, dissected into 8 panels and laid on linen, tabbed for inclusion in the first volume of Booth’s ‘Labour and Life of the People in London’.
For survey methods, see ‘Charles Booth’s London Poverty Maps’ by Mary S Morgan, Iain Sinclair et al, published by Thames & Hudson, 2019, p. 31; map illustrated p. 38.