Poverty in Victorian England
Alexander, Cecil Francis. "All Things Bright and Beautiful (1848)." Hymns Ancient and Modern. London: William Clowes & Sons, 1904. Print.

Many Victorians considered the poor to be the victims of their own predestination.  This is well expressed in a verse of Alexander's hymn "All Things Bright And Beautiful," which reads "The rich man in his castle, / The poor man at his gate, / God made them, high and lowly, / And order’d their estate."  This poem is a relevant and primary view through the eyes of an artist and citizen of Victorian London regarding the fate of the poor.

Ball, Michael, and David Sunderland. An Economic History of London, 1800-1914. London: Routledge, 2001. Print.

This book provides a background into the economic situation in London during the Victorian period.  Poverty and the lower-class are central themes, set against the mercantile and upper-class socioeconomic societies.   This source gives my research a context by which to assess the relative extent of poverty by examining not only the poor but also the other levels of wealth in London.

Carew, Betty. "Child labor during the Victorian period ." Helium (2009): n. pag. Web. 19 Feb 2011. <http://www.helium.com/items/1313554-victorian-child-


This online article focuses on the effects of poverty on child labor.  Carew argues that children were put to work as a way for them to give back to their large families, which often struggled to feed their many members.

"Charles Booth's Key of London Poverty, 1889." London Pride: £20m revamp brings capital's museum up to date.  The Independent.  Web.  18 Feb 2011.



Charles Booth set out to scientifically analyze poverty in Victorian London.  The result was his "Poverty Map," a color-coded map indicating the relative wealth of various areas of London.  This image is a detail of a legend used by Booth to describe his color codes.  It gives insight into the popular mindset of Victorians towards the poor.  His descriptions, indicative of a link between poverty and a criminal disposition, reveal the bias faced by the lower class in the eyes of social scientists and governmental agencies of the era.

"Charles Booth's Poverty Map." Survey Research, University of Florida. Web. 18 Feb 2011. <http://www.bl.uk/learning/images/mappinghist/booth-lg.jpg>.

This map, crafted by Charles Booth, depicts the socioeconomic landscape of Victorian age London.  It delineates neighborhoods in terms of their relative wealth or poverty.  The vast areas of poverty in comparison to the small pockets of wealth speak to the wide disparity between the classes of society.  It further serves as a direct and primary source of insight into the perceptions of Victorian social scientists.

Chinn, Carl. Poverty Amidst Prosperity. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. Print.

Chinn explores the seeming paradox between the fact that England was the wealthiest nation of the nineteenth century and the fact that it simultaneously had burgeoning slums filled with poverty and crime.  He delineates some key causes of this discrepancy, approaching the issue from both the perspective of the poorest and richest of England’s residents.  Further, he argues that the poor did not submit themselves to their situation; instead, they fought against their circumstances despite endless setbacks.

Daniels, Barbara. "Poverty and Families in the Victorian Era." Hidden Lives Revealed:    A Virtual Archive Mar 2003: Web. 19 Feb 2011.


This website provides a clear and helpful background to the causes and circumstances of poverty.  It is succinct, yet provides a necessary insight into the  various aspects of the lives of the poor.  Several sections are devoted to various topics such as population increase, homelessness and society’s attitude towards the poor, all of which are helpful in my research.

Dickens, Charles, and Nina Bryant. "A Man of Great Expectations." Britain Magazine 77.6 (2009): 87-92.

This article focuses on Charles Dickens’ formative years and their relation to his later mindset as a prolific author.  Bryant argues that Dickens’ encounter with poverty attenuated him to the unfair and drastic conditions endured by the poor of England.  She also explains that Dickens’ time as a newspaper worker brought him into closer contact with poverty in his daily life.  This experience and knowledge likely contributed to Dickens’ acute awareness of his subjects and expert analysis of Victorian poverty.

Green, David. From Artisans to Paupers: Economic Change and Poverty in London, 1790-1870. Brookfield: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1995. 50, 120,

180. Print.

This book is an excellent source of tables and graphs that simplistically and efficiently relate complex ideas in visual form.  Specifically, I am interested in a graph (pg. 50) which relates the availability of housing to the total population in metropolitan London, and a graph (pg. 120) which relates fluctuations in wages with industrial production and the cost of living.  Also, I found an illustration (pg. 180) in the appendix to be especially striking.  It depicts a coffin being carried out of a workhouse, where conditions often led to premature deaths.

Hurran, Elizabeth T.  “Protesting About Pauperism: Poverty, Politics and Poor Relief in Late-Victorian England, 1870-1900.” Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007. 


Hurran carefully delineates the dual approach to poverty taken by England’s political entities in the Victorian era.  Ideological differences between conservative and liberal factions, as well as differences in the interests of the urban and rural administrative bodies, created a constant tension in the way in which aid to the poor was dispersed.  Hurran furthermore examines the effect of the democratization of local governmental agencies on the socio-economic diversity of England.  She argues that such changes, along with an ever-shifting political atmosphere, had a substantial influence on the development and realization of relief for the poor.

Kirk, Neville. The Growth of Working Class Reformism in Mid-Victorian England. 2nd ed. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1985. Print.

The rising discontent among the working poor led to a number of reforms during the Victorian period, most all of which are explored in this text.  This book provides a nice background to my research by shedding light on the work-related aspect of poverty in England.

"Mammon's Rents." The Jarman Family History. Web. 20 Feb 2011. <http://www.jarmanfamilyhistory.com/Page%206%20-%20Robert%20Jun.htm>.

This engraving depicts a family in poverty being addressed by a landlord.  The obvious despair and turmoil of the family is particularly exaggerated as the landlord is collecting the week’s rent.  The source of this engraving is an interesting and personal history of Robert Jarman, a low-class and impoverished carpenter living during the early and mid-Victorian period in Smithfield market, London.

Marcus, Steven. "Homelessness and Dickens." Social Research, 58.1 (1991): 93-106.

This work focuses on Dickens’ writings within the context of homelessness.  It highlights his childhood experience as a homeless person and draws parallels to his writings as an adult.  Poverty is explored as a cause of homelessness in Victorian England, particularly in urban areas such as London.  Many of the issues related to poverty are equally as relevant today.

Martin, Kathleen Callanan.  “Hard and Unreal Advice: Mothers, Social Science and the Victorian Poverty Experts.” Basingstoke and New York:

Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.  ix-229.

Martin explores the explanations of poverty in sociological and psychological terms during the period between the two great Poor Law Commissions.  She focuses on popular attitudes towards lower-class mothers and their arguably misrepresented struggles prior to the Second Poor Law Commission.  Her belief is that the bias of wealthy, upper-class social scientists further disadvantaged working mothers by improperly representing them in scholarly research and analysis leading up to the drafting of the Second Commission.  I rather like her angle and hope to replicate her dedication and fidelity in my own work.

Nelson, Robert. "The Price of Bread: Poverty, Purchasing Power, and The Victorian Laborer's Standard of Living." Victorian Web 25 Dec 2005: Web. 19 Feb

2011. <http://www.victorianweb.org/history/work/nelson1.html>.

This online article discusses the life of the working poor in the advent of the Industrial Revolution.  Specifically, it traces the rise (or fall) of wages in the Victorian labor market.  It couples this information with the fluctuation of food prices.  Thus, an overarching view of the purchasing power of the poor is presented in a quantitative and thorough way.

Palmer, William J.  “A Christmas Carol’s Relevance Today.”  USA Today Magazine 137 (2008): 1-2.

Palmer explains Dickens’ motivation for writing A Christmas Carol.  He argues that a concern for the well-being of the poor and disadvantaged inspired what is perhaps the most celebrated Christmas novel of the English language.  While this article is a bit tangential to my area of focus, it reaffirms my hypothesis that Dickens was in fact an avid advocate for the rights and advancement of the destitute of Victorian England.