Life in Britain in the 19th Century

Life in Britain in the 19th Century

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Historians have estimated that in the 17th century average life expectancy at birth was around 35 with about 25% of people dying before they were 5 years old. However if you could survive childhood you had a good chance of living to your 50s or your early 60s. Some people, especially from wealthy backgrounds, could live into their 80s or 90s.

George M. Trevelyan, the author of English Social History (1942) has argued that the 18th century great changes took place: "In the first decades of the century the death-rate had risen sharply and passed the birth-rate. But this dangerous tendency was reversed between 1730 and 1760, and after 1780 the death-rate went down by leaps and bounds... In the course of the eighteenth century the population of England and Wales rose from about five and a half millions when Queen Anne came to the throne (1702) came to the throne to nine millions in 1801... The advance in population represented a rather larger birth-rate and a very much reduced death-rate." (1)

Trevelyan argued that the main reason for the increase in population was an "improved medical service". J. F. C. Harrison, the author of The Common People (1984) disagrees: "Contrary to older opinions, this decline in mortality is not to be attributed to progress in medical knowledge or techniques, but to a general improvement in standards of living, which strengthened people's resistance to disease and mitigated some of the worst harshness of life. In particular there was some improvements in infant mortatility, which was where the greatest waste of human life occured." (2)

Wages improved steadily in the second-half of the 18th century. Inventions by James Hargreaves (Spinning Jenny) and Samuel Crompton (Spinning Mule) meant that weavers were assured of a plentiful supply of yarn, and the 1790s became the golden age of handloom weaving, when work was plentiful and wages high. One observer pointed out: "Their little cottages seemed happy and contented... It was seldom that a weaver appealed to the parish for relief... Peace and content sat upon the weaver's brow." (3)

This enabled weavers and other artisans to live in better homes and by the 1790s they began buying their own homes. A study of Birmingham by John G. Rule, the author of The Labouring Classes in Early Industrial England 1750-1850 (1986), showed that artisans in the city began joining together in clubs that allowed them to buy houses over a fourteen-year period. At that time it was possible to build a two up and two down room house for £60. This was a very popular venture as it cost less to buy a house than to rent one. (4)

The prosperity of the handloom weavers was short-lived. With the invention of the steam-engine by James Watt, factories no longer had to be built by the side of fast-flowing rivers. Businessmen now tended to build factories where there was a good supply of labour. The obvious place to build a factory was therefore in a town.

Manchester is a good example of how a town was changed by the Industrial Revolution. In 1773 Manchester was a market-town with a population of 27,000. Businessmen began building factories in the town because of Manchester's large population and local coal deposits. By 1802, Manchester had fifty-two textile factories and the population had grown to 95,000. (5)

This attracted others who wanted to sell their goods and services to this large population. This caused further growth, and by 1851 the population of Manchester was over 300,000. The people who moved to Manchester needed somewhere to live. Builders realised that good profits could be made by quickly building cheap housing. One way of doing this was to make sure that the houses shared as many walls as possible. The result was rows and rows of back-to-back, terraced houses. The gaps between the rows were often as narrow as eight or nine feet.

The journalist, Henry Mayhew, argued that the government needed to know the scale of the problem that existed. He wrote a series of articles for the newspaper, The Morning Chronicle. He later described himself as a "social explorer" and saw his role "as supplying information concerning a very large body of persons, of whom the public had less knowledge than of the most distant tribes of the earth". (6) Another journalist, James Greenwood, who also investigated the problems of living in the new industrial towns saw himself as a "volunteer explorer in the depths of social mysteries". (7)

James P. Kay-Shuttleworth was a doctor in Manchester and in 1832 he reported: "Frequently, the inspectors found two or more families crowded into one small house and often one family lived in a damp cellar where twelve or sixteen persons were crowded. Children are ill-fed, dirty, ill-clothed, exposed to cold and neglect; and in consequence, more than one-half of the off-spring die before they have completed their fifth year. The strongest survive; but the same causes which destroy the weakest, impair the vigour of the more robust; and hence the children of our manufacturing population are proverbially pale and sallow." (8)

The large number of factories in Manchester caused a considerable amount of pollution. Alexis de Tocqueville was a French aristocrat who visited the city in 1835. "A sort of black smoke covers the city. The sun seen through it is a disc without rays. Under this half daylight 300,000 human beings are ceaselessly at work.... From this foul drain the greatest stream of human industry flows out to fertilize the whole world. From this filthy sewer pure gold flows. Here humanity attains its most complete development and its most brutish; here civilisation works its miracles, and civilised man is turned back almost into a savage." (9)

London was probably the most polluted city in England: "It was noon, and an exquisitely bright and clear spring day; but the view was smudgy and smeared with smoke. Clumps of building and snatches of parks looked through the clouds like dim islands rising out of the sea of smoke. It was impossible to tell where the sky ended and the city began; and as you peered into the thick haze you could, after a time, make out the dusky figures of tall factory chimneys plumed with black smoke; while spires and turrets seemed to hang midway between you and the earth, as if poised in the thick grey air." (10)

Houses were also severely overcrowded. Friedrich Engels was shocked when he visited Liverpool in the 1840s. "Liverpool, with all its commerce, wealth, and grandeur yet treats its workers with the same barbarity. A full fifth of the population, more than 45,000 human beings, live in narrow, dark, damp, badly ventilated cellar dwellings, of which there are 7,862 in the city. Besides these cellar dwellings there are 2,270 courts, small spaces built up on all four sides and having but one entrance, a narrow-covered passage-way, the whole ordinarily very dirty and inhabited exclusively by proletarians. In Bristol, on one occasion, 2,800 families were visited, of whom 46 per cent occupied but one room each. (11)

The conditions outside the homes were also extremely bad. There was no system of refuse collection and most people just dumped their rubbish in the streets. Working-class homes did not have inside lavatories and people therefore had to share communal privies. These privies were often just holes in the ground covered by a wooden shed. When the privies were not cleaned out on a regular basis, the cesspits overflowed and the sewage ran down the streets. According to a report carried out in Leeds: "The privies are invariably in a filthy condition, and often remain without the removal of any portion of filth for six months." (12)

A magazine published in October 1843 pointed out the problems experienced by the people of Edinburgh: "These streets are often so narrow that a person can step from the window of one house into that of its opposite neighbour, while the houses are piled so high, storey upon storey, that the light can scarcely penetrate into the court or alley that lies between. There are neither sewers or drains, nor even privies belonging to the houses. In consequence, all refuse, garbage, and excrements of at least 50,000 persons are thrown into the gutters every night, so that, in spite of all the street sweeping, a mass of dried filth and four vapous are created, which not only offend the sight and smell, but endanger the health of the inhabitants in the highest degree." (13)

Nottingham was another town that had changed dramatically. It had a population of about 10,000 in the middle of the 18th century and it was described as "a garden city, with well laid out houses, surrounded by orchards and gardens in the midst of parkland and open spaces". By 1831 the population had risen to about 50,000 but the people were packed into very much the same ground area as had been occupied a hundred years before. It was now "a chequer board of mean streets, alleyways and courts". (14)

This was supported by an official report published in 1845: "I believe that nowhere else shall we find so large a mass of people crowded into courts as in Nottingham... The courts are almost always approached through a low-arched tunnel of some 30 or 36 inches wide, about 8 feet high, and from 20 to 30 feet long... In these confined quarters, the refuse is allowed to accumulate... until it has acquired value as manure... It is common to find the privies open and exposed to the public gaze of the inhabitants... The houses are three stories high, side by side, back to back." (15)

The worst slums were in London. The journalist, Henry Mayhew, carried out an investigation into the problem in 1849. "By the last census return (1841) the metropolis covered an extent of nearly 45,000 acres, and contained upwards of two hundred and sixty thousand houses, occupied by one million eight hundred and twenty thousand souls, constituting not only the densest, but the busiest hive, the most wondrous workshop, and the richest bank in the world. A strange incongruous chaos of wealth and want - of ambition and despair - of the brightest charity and the darkest crime, where there is more feasting and more starvation, than on any other spot on earth - and all grouped round the one giant centre, the huge black dome, with its ball of gold looming through the smoke and marking out the capital, no matter from what quarter the traveller may come". (16)

In 1750 around a fifth of the population lived in towns of more than 5,000 inhabitants; by 1850 around three-fifths did. This caused serious health problems for working-class people. In 1840, 57% of the working-class children of Manchester died before their fifth birthday, compared with 32% in rural districts. (17) Whereas a farm labourer in Rutland had a life-expectancy of 38, a factory worker in Liverpool had an average age of death of 15. (18)

Friedrich Engels agreed with Mayhew that they rich and poor lived very close together but they rarely visited each other's territory: "Every great city has one or more slums, where the working-class is crowded together. True poverty often dwells in hidden alleys close to the palaces of the rich; but, in general, a separate territory has been assigned to it, where removed from the sight of the happier classes, it may struggle along as it can... A person may live in it for years, and go in and out daily without coming into contact with a working people's quarter... This arises from the fact... that the working-people's quarters are sharply separated from the sections of the city reserved for the middle-class." (19) Thomas Carlyle pointed out: "Wealth has accumulated itself into masses and poverty, also in accumulation enough, lies impassably separated from it; opposed, uncommunicating, like forces in positive and negative poles." (20)

Carrier Street was considered to be one of the worst places to live in London and was described as "an almost endless intricacy of courts and yards crossing each other, rendered the place like a rabbit-warren." (21) The people living in the street became so angry that they decided to write to The Times about their problems: "We live in muck and filth. We ain't got no privies, no dustbins, no drains, no water supplies, and no sewers in the whole place... We are living like pigs, and it ain't fair... We hope you will let us have our complaints put into your influential paper, and make the landlords... make our houses decent for Christians to live in." (22)

Obtaining clean water was a constant problem in industrial towns. Some people used buckets to collect rain-water. However, the air was so polluted that this water would soon turn black. "As we passed along the reeking banks of the sewer the sun shone upon a narrow slip of the water. In the bright light it appeared the colour of strong green tea, and positively looked as solid as black marble in the shadow - indeed it was more like watery mud than muddy water; and yet we were assured this was the only water the wretched inhabitants had to drink." (23)

George R. Sims was another journalist who urged the government to take action to improve living conditions. "I was the other day in a room occupied by a widow women, her daughters of seventeen and sixteen, her sons of fourteen and thirteen, and two younger children. Her wretched apartment was on the street level, and behind it was a common yard of the tenement. For this room, the widow paid four and sixpence a week; the walls were mildewed and steaming with damp; the boards as you trod upon them made the slushing noise of a plant spread across a mud puddle in a brickfield. Of all the evils arising from this one room system there is perhaps none greater than the utter destruction of innocence in the young. A moment's thought will enable the reader to appreciate the evils of it. But if it is bad in the case of a respectable family, how much more terrible is it when the children are familiarised with actually immorality." (24)

Thomas Carlyle wrote that England seemed an "enchanted" land that had been "cursed by the gods, flowing with wealth from improved agriculture and industrial invention" but had the terrible problem of poverty that such wealth had brought with it. "To whom, then, is this wealth of England wealth? Who is it that it blesses; makes happier, wiser, beautifuler, in any way better? We have more riches than any Nation ever had before; we have less good of them than any Nation ever had before. Our successful industry is hitherto unsuccessful; a strange success, if we stop here! In the midst of plethoric plenty, the people perish; with gold walls, and full barns, no man feels himself safe or satisfied." (25)

In 1832, James P. Kay-Shuttleworth, a doctor in Manchester, carried out an investigation into the health of working-class people in the city. "In Parliament Street there is only one privy for three hundred and eighty inhabitants, which is placed in a narrow passage, whence its effluvia infest the adjacent houses, and must prove a most fertile source of disease. In this street also, cesspools with open grids have been made close to the doors of the houses, in which disgusting refuse accumulates, and whence its noxious effluvia constantly exhale. In Parliament-passage about thirty houses have been erected, merely separated by an extremely narrow passage (a yard and a half wide) from the wall and back door of other houses. These thirty houses have one privy."

Kay-Shuttleworth then went on to speculate that these conditions were the cause of a recent outbreak of cholera: "A more unhealthy spot than Allen's Court it would be difficult to discover, and the physical depression consequent on living in such a situation may be inferred from what ensued on the introduction of cholera here. A match-seller, living in the first story of one of these houses, was seized with cholera, on Sunday, July 22nd: he died on Wednesday, July 25th; and owing to the wilful negligence of his friends, and because the Board of Health had no intimation of the occurrence, he was not buried until Friday afternoon, July 27th. On that day, five other cases of cholera occurred amongst the inhabitants of the court. On the 28th, seven, and on the 29th two. The cases were nearly all fatal." (26)

Thomas Southwood Smith, a doctor working in Bethnal Green in London also argued that there was a link between sanitation and disease: "Into this part of the ditch the privies of all the houses of a street called North Street open; these privies are completely uncovered, and the soil from them is allowed to accumulate in the open ditch. Nothing can be conceived more disgusting than the appearance of this ditch for an extent of from 300 to 400 feet, and the odour of the effluvia from it is at this moment most offensive. Lamb's Fields is the fruitful source of fever to the houses which immediately surround it, and to the small streets which branch off from it. Particular houses were pointed out to me from which entire families have been swept away, and from several of the streets fever is never absent." (27)

One of the consequences of the 1832 Reform Act was the passing of the 1835 Municipal Reform Act. This granted permission for the setting up of 178 town councils. It was also decided that all ratepayers should have a vote in council elections. These councils were also given the power to take over such matters as the town's water supply. For the first time the working-class had a vote in elections but as they had not created their own political party they rarely bothered to vote and local councils refused to take action concerning sanitation. (28)

In 1837, Parliament passed a Registration Act ordering the registration of all births, marriages and deaths that took place in Britain. Parliament also appointed William Farr to collect and publish these statistics. In his first report for the General Register Office, Farr argued that the evidence indicated that unhealthy living conditions were killing thousands of people every year. (29)

Farr argued that urban growth in the 1820s and 1830s had resulted in insanitation and poor water supplies and was probably responsible for an increase in epidemic and endemic disease. Most houses did not have pipes to take the sewerage away. Human waste was piled up in the street (called dunghills) before being taken away by people called nightmen (because by law it could only be performed after twelve o'clock at night).

A doctor reported what happened in the town of Greenock: "In Market Street is a dunghill... over twelve feet contains a hundred cubic yards of impure filth, collected from all parts of town... A man who deals in dung sells it... the older the filth, the higher the price... The smell in summer is horrible... There are many houses, four stories in height, in the area... in the summer each house swarms with flies; every article of food and drink must be covered, otherwise, if left exposed for a minute, the flies immediately attack it, and it is rendered unfit for use, from the strong taste of the dunghill left by the flies." (30)

Private firms were responsible for cleaning the privies and dunghills. William Thorn worked for a firm that carried out this work and he was asked by a parliamentary committee what happened to it: "We sell it to the farmers, who use it on their land... for turnips, wheat... in fact, for all their produce". (31) Farmers in Surrey claimed that it was only liberal dressings of "London Muck" that made their heavy clays fit for cultivation. (32)

Water consumption in towns per head of population remained very low. In most towns the local river, streams or springs, provided people with water to drink. These sources were often contaminated by human waste. The bacteria of certain very lethal infectious diseases, for example, typhoid and cholera, are transmitted through water, it was not only unpleasant to taste but damaging to people's health. As Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out: "The fetid, muddy waters, stained with a thousand colours by the factories they pass, of one of the streams... wander slowly round this refuge of poverty." (33)

Henry Mayhew was a journalist who carried out an investigation into working-class living conditions: "As we passed along the reeking banks of the sewer the sun shone upon a narrow slip of the water. In the bright light it appeared the colour of strong green tea, and positively looked as solid as black marble in the shadow - indeed it was more like watery mud than muddy water; and yet we were assured this was the only water the wretched inhabitants had to drink. As we gazed in horror at it, we saw drains and sewers emptying their filthy contents into it; we saw a whole tier of doorless privies in the open road, common to men and women, built over it; we heard bucket after bucket of filth splash into it, and the limbs of the vagrant boys bathing in it seemed, by pure force of contrast, white as Parian marble. And yet, as we stood doubting the fearful statement, we saw a little child, from one of the galleries opposite, lower a tin can with a rope to fill a large bucket that stood beside her. In each of the balconies that hung over the stream the self-same tub was to be seen in which the inhabitants put the mucky liquid to stand, so that they may, after it has rested for a day or two, skim the fluid from the solid particles of filth, pollution, and disease. As the little thing dangled her tin cup as gently as possible into the stream, a bucket of night-soil was poured down from the next gallery." (34)

In 1833 Earl Charles Grey, the Prime Minister, set up a Poor Law Commission to examine the working of the poor Law system in Britain. In their report published in 1834, the Commission made several recommendations to Parliament. As a result, the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed. The act stated that: (a) no able-bodied person was to receive money or other help from the Poor Law authorities except in a workhouse; (b) conditions in workhouses were to be made very harsh to discourage people from wanting to receive help; (c) workhouses were to be built in every parish or, if parishes were too small, in unions of parishes; (d) ratepayers in each parish or union had to elect a Board of Guardians to supervise the workhouse, to collect the Poor Rate and to send reports to the Central Poor Law Commission; (e) the three man Central Poor Law Commission would be appointed by the government and would be responsible for supervising the Amendment Act throughout the country. (35)

Thomas Attwood argued that workhouses would become "prisons from the purpose of terrifying applicants from seeking relief". Daniel O'Connell, said that as an Irishman, he would not say much, but he objected to the bill on the grounds that it "did away with personal feelings and connections." William Cobbett warned the legislators in the House of Commons that "they were about to dissolve the bonds of society" and to pass the law would be "a violation of the contract upon which all the real property of the kingdom was held". Cobbett particularly objected to the separation of families, and to workhouse inmates being forced to wear badges or distinctive clothing. (36)

In 1838 the Poor Law Commission became concerned that a high proportion of all poverty had its origins in disease and premature death. Men were unable to work as a result of long-term health problems. A significant proportion of these men died and the Poor Law Guardians were faced with the expense of maintaining the widow and the orphans. The Commission decided to ask three experienced doctors, James P. Kay-Shuttleworth, Thomas Southwood Smith and Neil Arnott, to investigate and report on the sanitary condition of some districts in London. (37)

On receiving details of the doctor's investigation, the Poor Law Commission sent a letter to the Home Secretary, Lord John Russell, suggesting that if the government spent money on improving sanitation it would reduce the cost of looking after the poor: "In general, all epidemics and all infectious diseases are attended with charges immediate and ultimate on the poor-rates. Labourers are suddenly thrown by infectious disease into a state of destitution for which immediate relief must be given: in the case of death the widow and the children are thrown as paupers on the parish. The amount of burdens thus produced is frequently so great, as to render it good economy on the part of the administrators of the poor laws to incur the charges for preventing the evils, where they are ascribable to physical causes, which there are no other means of removing." (38)

Debates in the House of Lords took place on this issue but it was several years before the government decided to order a full-scale enquiry into the health of British people. The person put in charge of this enquiry was Edwin Chadwick. He was a lawyer but as a member of the Unilitarian Society he had met some of the most progressive political figures in Britain, including Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, John Stuart Mill and Francis Place. (39)

Chadwick's report, The Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population, was published in 1842. He argued that slum housing, inefficient sewerage and impure water supplies in industrial towns were causing the unnecessary deaths of about 60,000 people every year: "Of the 43,000 cases of widowhood, and 112,000 cases of orphanage relieved from the poor rates in England and Wales, it appears that the greatest proportion of the deaths of heads of families occurred from... removable causes... The expense of public drainage, of supplies of water laid on in houses, and the removal of all refuse... would be a financial gain.. as it would reduce the cast of sickness and premature death." (40)

Chadwick was a disciple of Jeremy Bentham who questioned the value of all institutions and customs by the test of whether they contributed to the "greatest happiness of the greatest number". (41) Chadwick claimed that middle-class people lived longer and healthier lives because they could afford to pay to have their sewage removed and to have fresh water piped into their homes. For example, he showed the average age of death for the professional class in Liverpool was 35, whereas it was only 15 for the working-classes. (42)

Chadwick criticised the private companies that removed sewage and supplied fresh water, arguing that these services should be supplied by public organisations. He pointed out that private companies were only willing to supply these services to those people who could afford them, whereas public organisations could make sure everybody received these services. He argued that the "cost of removing sewage would be reduced to a fraction by carrying it away by suspension in water". The government therefore needed to provide a "supply of piped water, and an entirely new system of sewers, using circular, glazed clay pipes of relatively small bore instead of the old, square, brick tunnels". (43)

However, there were some influential and powerful people who were opposed to Edwin Chadwick's ideas. These included the owners of private companies who in the past had made very large profits from supplying fresh water to middle-class districts in Britain's towns and cities. Opposition also came from prosperous householders who were already paying for these services and were worried that Chadwick's proposals would mean them paying higher taxes. The historian, A. L. Morton, claims that his proposed reforms made him "the most detested man in England." (44)

When the government refused to take action, Chadwick set up his own company to provide sewage disposal and fresh water to the people of Britain. He planned to introduce the "arterial-venous system". The system involved one pipe taking the sewage from the towns to the countryside where it would be sold to farmers as manure. At the same time, another pipe would take fresh water from the countryside to the large populations living in the towns.

Chadwick calculated that it would be possible for people to have their sewage taken away and receive clean piped water for less than 2d. a week. However, Chadwick launched the Towns Improvement Company during the railway boom. Most people preferred to invest their money in railway companies. Without the necessary start-up capital, Chadwick was forced to abandon his plan. (45)

Nottingham became one of the first towns in Britain to pipe fresh water into all homes. Thomas Hawksley was appointed as chief enginner and in 1844 he was interviewed by a Parliamentary Committee about his work: "Before the supply was laid on in the houses water was sold chiefly to the labouring-classes by carriers at the rate of one farthing a bucket; and if the water had to be carried any distance up a court a halfpenny a bucket was, in some instances, charged. In general it was sold at about three gallons for a farthing. But the Company now delivers to all the town 76,000 gallons for £1; in other words, carries into every house 79 gallons for a farthing, and delivers water night and day, at every instant of time that it is wanted, at a charge 26 times less than the old delivery by hand." (46)

In 1847 the British government proposed a Public Health Bill that was based on some of Edwin Chadwick's recommendations. There were still a large number of MPs who were strong supporters of what was known as laissez-faire. This was a belief that government should not interfere in the free market. They argued that it was up to individuals to decide on what goods or services they wanted to buy. These included spending on such things as sewage removal and water supplies. George Hudson, the Conservative Party MP, stated in the House of Commons: "The people want to be left to manage their own affairs; they do not want Parliament... interfering in everybody's business." (47)

Supporters of Chadwick argued that many people were not well-informed enough to make good decisions on these matters. Other MPs pointed out that many people could not afford the cost of these services and therefore needed the help of the government. The Health of Towns Association, an organisation formed by doctors, began a propaganda campaign in favour of reform and encouraged people to sign a petition in favour of the Public Health Bill. In June 1847, the association sent Parliament a petition that contained over 32,000 signatures. However, this was not enough to persuade Parliament, and in July the bill was defeated. (48)

A few weeks later news reached Britain of an outbreak of cholera in Egypt. The disease gradually spread west, and by early 1848 it had arrived in Europe. The previous outbreak of cholera in Britain in 1831, had resulted in the deaths of over 16,000 people. In his report, published in 1842, Chadwick had pointed out that nearly all these deaths had occurred in those areas with impure water supplies and inefficient sewage removal systems. Faced with the possibility of a cholera epidemic, the government decided to try again. This new bill involved the setting up of a Board of Health Act, that had the power to advise and assist towns which wanted to improve public sanitation. (49)

In an attempt to persuade the supporters of laissez-faire to agree to a Public Health Act, the government made several changes to the bill introduced in 1847. For example, local boards of health could only be established when more than one-tenth of the ratepayers agreed to it or if the death-rate was higher than 23 per 1000. Chadwick was disappointed by the changes that had taken place, but he agreed to become one of the three members of the central Board of Health when the act was passed in the summer of 1848. However, the act was passed too late to stop the outbreak of cholera that arrived in Britain that September. In the next few months, cholera killed 80,000 people. Once again, it was mainly the people living in the industrial slums who caught the disease. (50)

By 1853 over 160 towns and cities had set up local boards of health. Some of these boards did extremely good work and were able to introduce important reforms. Thomas Hawksley, for example, after his success in Nottingham, was appointed to many major water supply projects across England, including schemes for Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, Leeds, Derby, Oxford, Cambridge, Sunderland, Lincoln, Darlington, Wakefield and Northampton. (51)

In other towns, supporters of laissez-faire were able to prevent action being taken. Most MPs remained unhappy about government involvement in the free market. As Michael Flinn, the author of Public Health Reform in Britain (1968) pointed out "the opponents of sanitary reform, who wanted to have an end to all state interference in this field, led to the final disbandment of the Board in 1858. (52)

In 1865-66 there was another cholera epidemic which resulted in the deaths of 20,000 people. The government responded by setting up another enquiry into public health. As a result of this report, further reforms were introduced. In 1871 a new government department was formed to look after public health. The following year, a law was passed that divided the country into Sanitary Authorities. Each authority had to appoint a sanitary inspector and a medical officer of health who had the responsibility of improving the region's public health. These measures were confirmed in the 1875 Public Health Act. (53)

It was argued that the best way that working-class people could improve the quality of life was through the trade union movement. Karl Marx pointed out: "The value of labour-power constitutes the conscious and explicit foundation of the trade unions, whose importance for the... working class can scarcely be overestimated. The trade unions aim at nothing less than to prevent the reduction of wages below the level that is traditionally maintained in the various branches of industry. That is to say, they wish to prevent the price of labour-power from falling below its value." (54)

However, as he pointed out, the authorities had always tried to keep trade unions under control. In 1799 and 1780 William Pitt, the Prime Minister, decided to take action against political agitation among industrial workers. Combination Laws was passed making it illegal for workers to join together to press their employers for shorter hours or higher wages. As a result trade unions were thus effectively made illegal.

The legislation remained in force until they were repealed in 1824. This was followed by an outbreak of strikes and as a result and further legislation was passed. The 1825 Combination Act narrowly defined the rights of trade unions as meeting to bargain over wages and conditions. Anything outside these limits was liable to prosecution as criminal conspiracy in restraint of trade. Trade unionists were not allowed to "molest", "obstruct", or intimidate" others. This law worried trade unionists as everything depended on how judges interpreted vague words like obstruct and intimidate. (55)

Robert Owen, Britain's leading socialist, argued that the only way to defeat the government on this issue was the establishment of a single body of trade unionists in Britain. In October 1833 he wrote that "national arrangements shall be formed to include all the working classes in the great organisation". (56)

The first meeting of the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union (GNCTU) took place on 13th February, 1834. Within a few weeks the organisation had gained over 1,500,000 members. James Morrison, the editor of Pioneer, the official paper of the GNCTU, wrote: "our little snowballs have all been rolled together and formed into a mighty avalanche". (57)

Owen hoped it would be possible to use the GNCTU to peacefully supplant capitalism. A. Morton, the author of A People's History of England (1938) argues that once the GNCTU "had been formed, strikes broke out everywhere, making demands on its resources that it had no means of meeting and at the same time scaring the government into a belief that the revolution was at hand." The government decided to fight back and six farm labourers at Tolpuddle were charged with administering illegal oaths and sentenced to transportation. Over 100,000 people demonstrated against this verdict in London but it was unable to stop the men being sent to Australia. The decline of the GNCTU was as rapid as the growth and in August 1834 it was closed down. (58)

Karl Marx received several letters urging him to establish an international socialist movement. He replied to one letter that "since 1852 I had not been associated with any association and was firmly convinced that my theoretical studies were of greater use to the working class than my meddling with associations which had now had their day on the Continent." In another letter he told Ferdinand Freiligrath that "whereas you are a poet, I am a critic and for me the experiences of 1849-1852 were quite enough." (59)

Marx's friend, George Julian Harney, was a great believer in internationalism. "People are beginning to understand that foreign as well as domestic questions do affect them... that the success of Republicanism in France would be the doom of Tyranny in every other land; and the triumph of England's democratic Charter would be the salvation of the millions throughout Europe." (60)

Britain experienced an economic boom in the late 1840s and early 1850s and there was a decline in the activity of working-class organizations such as the Chartists. This changed with the economic crisis that started in 1857. Over the next two years there were strikes for higher wages and shorter hours. In 1859 attempts were made to join forces with workers in France. (61)

The historian Eric Hobsbawm pointed out that the reasons for this new trend was "a curious amalgam of political and industrial action, of various kinds of radicalism from the democratic to the anarchist, of class struggles, class alliances and government or capitalist concessions... but above all it was international, not merely because, like the revival of liberalism, it occured simultaneously in various countries, but because it was inseparable from the international solidarity of the working classes." (62)

A group of trade unionists that became known collectively as the "junta" urged the establishment of an international organisation. This included Robert Applegarth, William Allan, George Odger and Johann Eccarius. "The aim of the Junta was to satisfy the new demands which were being voiced by the workers as an outcome of the economic crisis and the strike movement. They hoped to broaden the narrow outlook of British trade unionism, and to induce the unions to participate in the political struggle". (63)

On September 28, 1864, an international meeting for the reception of the French delegates took place in St. Martin’s Hall in London. The meeting was organised by George Howell and attended by a wide array of European radicals, including Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Louis Auguste Blanqui. The historian Edward Spencer Beesly was in the chair and he advocated "a union of the workers of the world for the realisation of justice on earth". (64)

In his speech to the 2,000 people in the audience, Beesly "pilloried the violent proceedings of the governments and referred to their flagrant breaches of international law. As an internationalist he showed the same energy in denouncing the crimes of all the governments, Russian, French, and British, alike. He summoned the workers to the struggle against the prejudices of patriotism, and advocated a union of the toilers of all lands for the realisation of justice on earth." (65)

The new organisation was called the International Workingmen's Association. Karl Marx attended the meeting and he was asked to become a member of the General Council that consisted of two Germans, two Italians, three Frenchmen and twenty-seven Englishmen (eleven of them from the building trade). Marx was proposed as President but as he later explained: "I declared that under no circumstances could I accept such a thing, and proposed Odger in my turn, who was then in fact re-elected, although some people voted for me despite my declaration." (66)

The General Council met for the first time on 5th October. George Odger was elected as President and William Cremer as Secretary. After "a very long and animated discussion" the Council could not agree on a programme. Johann Eccarius privately told Marx: "You absolutely must impress the stamp of your terse yet pregnant style upon the first-born child of the European workmen's organisation". (67)

Karl Marx agreed to outline the purpose of the organization. The General Rules of the International Workingmen's Association was published in October 1864. Marx's introduction pointed out what they hoped to achieve: "That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves, that the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties, and the abolition of all class rule... That the emancipation of labor is neither a local nor a national, but a social problem, embracing all countries in which modern society exists, and depending for its solution on the concurrence, practical and theoretical, of the most advanced countries." (68)

Friedrich Engels also joined the General Council but refused to to accept the office of treasurer: "Citizen Engels objected that none but working men ought to be appointed to have anything to do with the finances". Marx was asked to draw up the fundamental documents of the new organisation. He admitted that "It was very difficult to manage things in such a way that our views could secure expression in a form acceptable to the Labour movement in its present mood. A few weeks hence these British Labour leaders will he hobnobbing with Bright and Cobden at meetings to demand an extension of the franchise. It will take time before the reawakened movement will allow us to speak with the old boldness." (69)

On 23rd February, 1865, George Odger, Benjamin Lucraft, George Howell, William Allan, Johann Eccarius, William Cremer and several other members of the International Workingmen's Association established the Reform League, an organisation to campaign for one man, one vote. Karl Marx told Friedrich Engels "The International Association has managed so to constitute the majority on the committee to set up the new Reform League that the whole leadership is in our hands". (70)

The Reform League received financial and political support from middle-class radicals such as Peter Alfred Taylor, John Bright, Charles Bradlaugh, John Stuart Mill, Henry Fawcett, Titus Salt, Thomas Perronet Thompson, Samuel Morley and Wilfrid Lawson. Taylor was appointed vice-president and often spoke at public meetings. (71)

Bradlaugh, one of the greatest orators during this period, often appeared at meetings. Henry Snell commented: "Bradlaugh was already speaking when I arrived, and I remember, as clearly as though it were only yesterday, the immediate and compelling impression made upon me by that extraordinary man. I have never been so influenced by a human personality as I was by Charles Bradlaugh. The commanding strength, the massive head, the imposing stature, and the ringing eloquence of the man... I have seen strong men, under the storm of his passion, rise from their seats, and sometimes weep with emotion." (72)

On 2nd July 1866 the Reform League organised "a great street procession and meeting, 30,000 strong, in support of the popular demand for household suffrage... the London press for days after the procession had marched through the principal streets of the fashionable West End, teemed with half-frightened references to its military aspects, good marching, admirable order, well closed column and complete discipline." (73)

William Gladstone, the new leader of the Liberal Party, made it clear that he was in favour of increasing the number of people who could vote. Although the Conservative Party had opposed previous attempts to introduce parliamentary reform, they knew that if the Liberals returned to power, Gladstone was certain to try again. Gladstone was so popular that cheering crowds used to assemble outside his house. (74)

Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the House of Commons, argued that the Conservatives were in danger of being seen as an anti-reform party. In 1867 Disraeli proposed a new Reform Act. Lord Cranborne (later Lord Salisbury) resigned in protest against this extension of democracy. However, as he explained this had nothing to do with democracy: "We do not live - and I trust it will never be the fate of this country to live - under a democracy." (75)

Odger and other Reform League members had campaigned for adult suffrage but the government's proposals imposed strict restrictions on who could vote. At one meeting Odger declared that "nothing short of manhood suffrage would satisfy the working people". He went onto argue the vote would "prevent the labourer working for eight shillings a week." (76)

In the House of Commons, Disraeli's proposals were supported by Gladstone and his followers and the measure was passed. The 1867 Reform Act gave the vote to every male adult householder living in a borough constituency. Male lodgers paying £10 for unfurnished rooms were also granted the vote. This gave the vote to about 1,500,000 men. The Reform Act also dealt with constituencies and boroughs with less than 10,000 inhabitants lost one of their MPs. The forty-five seats left available were distributed by: (i) giving fifteen to towns which had never had an MP; (ii) giving one extra seat to some larger towns - Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds; (iii) creating a seat for the University of London; (iv) giving twenty-five seats to counties whose population had increased since 1832. (77)

Several leaders of the Reform League unsuccessfully attempted to be elected to the House of Commons. This included George Howell in Aylesbury and William Cremer in Warwick. However, it was George Odger, who made the greatest effort. He attempted to stand at Chelsea in 1868 but failed to win the Liberal Party nomination. The same thing happen in Stafford in 1869 and Bristol 1870. He did stand in Southwark in 1870 but lost to the Conservative Party candidate by 304 votes. (78)

The Spectator reported that he was the first working-class candidate to win more than 4,500 votes: "Nevertheless the result is that, for the first time, a member of the artizan class has polled upwards of 4,500 votes, and a considerably greater number of votes than a most wealthy, respectable, and benevolent member of the middle-class, who, in this borough, had every advantage that local connection could give him. That alone should be a pledge to members of the operative class that if they steadily persevere in their attempts to break down the class-feeling which at present excludes them from the House of Commons, they will soon succeed, and have quite sufficient success to secure to the House of Commons a very adequate infusion of the poorest, but by no means the least acute and energetic, class of the English people." (79)

The novelist, Henry James, was dismissive of Odger's attempts to become a member of the House of Commons: "George Odger... was an English radical agitator, of humble origin, who had distinguished himself by a perverse desire to get into Parliament. He exercised, I believe, the useful profession of shoemaker, and he knocked in vain at the door that opens but to golden keys." (80) However, Paul Foot has argued that Odger showed that it would not be long before working-class candidates would soon be elected to Parliament. (81)

In 1874 General Election, Thomas Burt, secretary of the Northumberland Miners Association (NMA), stood as the Radical Labour candidate for Morpeth. The local Liberal Party agreed not to put up a candidate in Morpeth and Burt easily beat his Conservative opponent (3,332 to 585). Burt joined Alexander Macdonald, another miner, who had been elected as the Lib-Lab MP for Stafford.

The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War took place on 16th July 1870. It was an attempt by Napoleon III to preserve the Second French Empire against the threat posed by German states of the North German Confederation led by the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The International Workingmen's Association had declared at its conference the previous year that if war broke out a general strike should take place. However, Marx had privately argued that this would end in failure as the "working-class... is not yet sufficiently organised to throw any decisive weight on to the scales". (82)

The Paris section of the IWMA immediately denounced the war. However, in Germany opinion was divided but the majority of socialists considered the war to be a defensive one and in the Reichstag only Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel refused to vote for war credits and spoke vigorously against the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. For this they were charged with treason and imprisoned. (83)

Marx believed that a German victory would help his long-term desire for a socialist revolution. He pointed out to Engels that German workers were better organised and better disciplined than French workers who were greatly influenced by the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: "The French need a drubbing. If the Prussians are victorious then the centralisation of the State power will give help to the centralisation of the working class... The superiority of the Germans over the French in the world arena would mean at the same time the superiority of our theory over Proudhon's and so on." (84)

A few days later Karl Marx issued a statement on behalf of the IWMA. "Whatever turn the impending horrid war may take, the alliance of the working classes of all countries will ultimately kill war. The very fact that while official France and Germany are rushing into a fratricidal feud, the workmen of France and Germany send each other messages of peace and goodwill; this great fact, unparalleled in the history of the past, opens the vista of a brighter future. It proves that in contrast to old society, with its economical miseries and its political delirium, a new society is springing up, whose International rule will be Peace, because its natural ruler will be everywhere the same - Labour! The Pioneer of that new society is the International Working Men's Association." (85)

Peace activists, John Stuart Mill and John Morley, congratulated Marx on his statement and arranged for 30,000 copies of his speech to be printed and distributed. Marx thought the war would provide the opportunity for revolution. He told Engels: "I have been totally unable to sleep for four nights now, on account of the rheumatism and I spend this time in fantasies about Paris, etc." He hoped for a German victory: "I wish this because the definite defeat of Bonaparte is likely to provoke Revolution in France, while the definite defeat of Germany would only protract the present state of things for twenty-years." (86)

In a letter to the American organiser of the IWMA, Friedrich Sorge, Marx made some predictions about the future that included the First World War and the Russian Revolution: "What the Prussian jackasses don't see is that the present war leads just as necessarily to war between Germany and Russia as the war of 1866 led to war between Prussia and France. That is the best result that I expect of it for Germany. Prussianism as such has never existed and cannot exist other than in alliance and in subservience to Russia. And this War No. 2 will act as the mid-wife of the inevitable revolution in Russia." (87)

The war went badly for Napoleon III and he was heavily defeated at the Battle of Sedan. On 4th September, 1870, a republic was proclaimed in Paris. Adolphe Thiers, a former prime minister and an opponent of the war, was elected chief executive of the new French government. (88)

Thiers, now aged 74, appointed a provisional government of conservative views and then travelled to London and attempted to negotiate an alliance with Britain. William Gladstone refused and when he arrived back in Paris on 31st October 1870, he was accused of treason. Felix Pyat, a radical socialist organized demonstrations against Thiers, whom he accused of threatening to sell France to the Germans. (89)

Karl Marx, who had been slow to attack Bismark because of his "pure German patriotism to which both he and Engels were always conspicuously prone" and the International Workingmen's Association issued a statement "protesting against the annexation, denouncing the dynastic ambitions of the Prussian King, and calling upon the French workers to unite with all defenders of democracy against the common Prussian foe." (90)

Marx later pointed out that it was "An absurdity and an anachronism to make military considerations the principle by which the boundaries of nations are to be fixed? If this rule were to prevail, Austria would still be entitled to Venetia and the line of the Minicio, and France to the line of the Rhine, in order to protect Paris, which lies certainly more open to an attack from the northeast than Berlin does from the southwest. If limits are to be fixed by military interests, there will be no end to claims, because every military line is necessarily faulty, and may be improved by annexing some more outlying territory; and, moreover, they can never be fixed finally and fairly, because they always must be imposed by the conqueror upon the conquered, and consequently carry within them the seed of fresh wars." (91)

In March 1871, the government made an attempt to disarm the Paris National Guard, a volunteer citizen force which showed signs of radical sympathies. It refused to give up its arms, declared its autonomy, deposed the officials of the provisional government, and elected a revolutionary committee of the people as the true government of France. Adolphe Thiers now fled to Versailles. Governments all over Europe were concerned by what was happening in Europe. The Times reported complained against "this dangerous sentiment of the Democracy, this conspiracy against civilisation in its so-called capital". (92)

The new government called itself the Paris Commune and attempted to run the city. Isaiah Berlin argues the committee was a mixture of different political opinions but did include the followers of Mikhail Bakunin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Louis Auguste Blanqui. The Communards had difficulty keeping control of the national guard and 28th March, on the day of the election, General Jacques Leon Clément-Thomas and General Claude Lecomte were murdered. Doctor Guyon, who examined the bodies shortly afterwards, found forty balls in the body of Clément-Thomas and nine balls in the back of Lecomte.

Adolphe Thiers now based in Versailles urged Parisians to abstain from voting. When the voting was finished, 233,000 Parisians had voted, out of 485,000 registered voters. In upper-class neighborhoods many refused to take part in the election with over 70 per cent refusing to vote. But in the working-class neighborhoods, turnout was high. Of the ninety-two Communards elected by popular suffrage, seventeen were members of the IWMA. It was agreed that Marx should draft an "Address to the People of Paris" but he was suffering from bronchitis and liver trouble and was unable to carry out the work. (93)

The Communards had difficulty keeping control of the national guard and on the day of the election, General Jacques Leon Clément-Thomas and General Claude Lecomte , two men blamed for being severe disciplinarians, were murdered. Doctor Guyon, who examined the bodies shortly afterwards, found forty balls in the body of Clément-Thomas and nine balls in the back of Lecomte. (94)

At the first meeting of the Commune, the members adopted several proposals, including an honorary presidency for Louis Auguste Blanqui; the abolition of the death penalty; the abolition of military conscription; a proposal to send delegates to other cities to help launch communes there. It was also stated that no military force other than the National Guard, made up of male citizens, could be formed or introduced into the capital. School children in the city were provided with free clothing and food. David McLellan suggests that the actual measures passed by the commune were reformist rather than revolutionary, with no attack on private property: employers were forbidden on the penalty of fines to reduce wages... and all abandoned businesses were transferred to co-operative associations." (95)

Karl Marx believed the actions of the Communards were revolutionary: "Having once got rid of the standing army and the police – the physical force elements of the old government – the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression... by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles. The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state. Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetters which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it." (96)

Although only males were allowed to vote in the elections, several women were involved in the Paris Commune. Nathalie Lemel and Élisabeth Dmitrieff, created the Women's Union for the Defense of Paris and Care of the Wounded. The group demanded gender and wage equality, the right of divorce for women, the right to secular education, and professional education for girls. Anne Jaclard and Victoire Léodile Béra founded the newspaper Paris Commune and Louise Michel, established a female battalion of the National Guard. (97)

The Committee was given extensive powers to hunt down and imprison enemies of the Commune. Led by Raoul Rigault, it began to make several arrests, usually on suspicion of treason. Those arrested included Georges Darboy, the Archbishop of Paris, General Edmond-Charles de Martimprey and Abbé Gaspard Deguerry. Rigault attempted to exchange these prisoners for Louis Auguste Blanqui who had been captured by government forces. Despite lengthy negotiations, Adolphe Thiers refused to release him.

On 22nd May 1871, Marshal Patrice de MacMahon and his government troops entered the city. The Committee of Public Safety issued a decree: "To arms! That Paris be bristling with barricades, and that, behind these improvised ramparts, it will hurl again its cry of war, its cry of pride, its cry of defiance, but its cry of victory; because Paris, with its barricades, is undefeatable ...That revolutionary Paris, that Paris of great days, does its duty; the Commune and the Committee of Public Safety will do theirs!" (98)

It is estimated that about fifteen to twenty thousand persons, including many women and children, responded to the call of arms. The forces of the Commune were outnumbered five-to-one by Marshal MacMahon's forces. They made their way to Montmartre, where the uprising had begun. The garrison of one barricade, was defended in part by a battalion of about thirty women, including Louise Michel. The soldiers captured 42 guardsmen and several women, took them to the same house on Rue Rosier where generals Clement-Thomas and Lecomte had been executed, and shot them.

Large numbers of the National Guard changed into civilian clothes and fled the city. It is estimated that this left only about 12,000 Communards to defend the barricades. As soon as they were captured they were executed. Raoul Rigaut responded by killing his prisoners, including the Archbishop of Paris and three priests. Soon afterwards Rigaut was captured and executed and the rebellion came to an end soon afterwards on 28th May. As Isaiah Berlin pointed out: "The retribution which the victorious army exacted took the form of mass executions; the white terror, as is common in such cases, far outdid in acts of bestial cruelty the worst excesses of the regime whose misdeeds it had come to end." (99)

According to Marx this is what always happens when the masses attempt to take control of society: "The civilization and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. Then this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge. Each new crisis in the class struggle between the appropriator and the producer brings out this fact more glaringly... The self-sacrificing heroism with which the population of Paris – men, women, and children – fought for eight days after the entrance of the Versaillese, reflects as much the grandeur of their cause, as the infernal deeds of the soldiery reflect the innate spirit of that civilization, indeed, the great problem of which is how to get rid of the heaps of corpses it made after the battle was over!" (100)

In his best-selling pamphlet, The Civil War in France (1871), Karl Marx admitted that the International Workingmen's Association was heavily involved in the Paris Commune. Jules Favre, the recently reinstated foreign minister in France, asked all European governments to outlaw the IWMA. A French newspaper identified Marx as the "supreme chief" of the conspirators, alleging that he had "organised" the uprising from London. It claimed that the IWMA had seven million members. (101)

Other European governments also urged the punishment of IWMA members. Spain agreed to extradite those involved in the Paris Commune. Giuseppe Mazzini, the leader of the Italian nationalist movement, joined in the calls for the arrest of Marx, who he described as "a man of domineering disposition; jealous of the influence of others; governed by no earnest, philosophical, or religious belief; having, I fear more elements of anger than of love in his nature". (102)

British newspapers also complained about the dangers posed by Karl Marx. The Times warned of the possibility of Marx having an influence on the working-class. It feared that solid English trade unionists who wanted nothing more than "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work" might be corrupted by "strange theories" imported from abroad. (103) Marx wrote to Ludwig Kugelmann that "I have the honour to be this moment the most abused and threatened man in London." (104)

The German ambassador urged Granville Leveson-Gower, the British Foreign Secretary, to treat Marx as a common criminal because of his outrageous "menaces to life and property". After consulting with William Gladstone, the Prime Minister, he replied that "extreme socialist opinions are not believed to have gained any hold upon the working men of this country" and "no practical steps with regard to foreign countries are known to have been taken by the English branch of the Association." (105)

The publication of The Civil War in France (1871) upset several British trade union leaders and George Odger resigned from the General Council of International Workingmen's Association. It has been argued that the passing of the 1867 Reform Act had made the working class less radical. After the Paris Commune, the only areas where the IWMA made progress was in the the strongholds of anarchism: Spain and Italy. (106)

Cholera was one of the most fatal diseases in the 19th century. Nausea and dizziness led to violent vomiting and diarrhoea, "with stools turning to a grey liquid until nothing emerged but water and fragments of intestinal membrane... extreme muscular cramps followed, with an insatiable desire for water". It is estimated that 16,000 people died during the 1831-1832 epidemic. (107)

Only working-class people appeared to suffer from cholera. Stories began to circulate that doctors were spreading the disease as an excuse for getting their hands on corpses to dissect. Charles Greville, secretary to the Privy Council, noted in his diary: "The other day a Mr Pope, head of the cholera hospital in Marylebone, came to the Council Office to complain that a patient who was being removed to hospital with his own consent had been taken out of his chair by the mob and carried back, the chair broken, and the bearers and surgeon hardly escaping with their lives... In short, there is no end to the... uproar, violence, and brutal ignorance that have gone on, and this on the part of the lower orders, for whose especial benefit all the precautions are taken." (108)

Rioting broke out all over Britain. Crowds of men, women and children smashed windows at the Toxteth Park Cholera Hospital in Liverpool and pelted members of the local board of health with bricks. On 2nd September 1832, violence erupted in Manchester when a mob Swan Street Hospital, breaking down the gates and fighting a pitched battle with the police. This was as a result of a local man, John Hare, discovering that his grandson's body, who had died of cholera, had been smuggled out of the hospital by a doctor who wanted to dissect it. (109)

John Snow attended sessions at the Newcastle School of Medicine in 1832–3, under John Fife. On completing his apprenticeship he became assistant, first to John Watson, general practitioner in Burnopfield, and then to Joseph Warburton, general practitioner in Pateley Bridge. (110)

During this period Snow read a pamphlet, The Return to Nature or Defence of the Vegetable Regimen (1822) by John Frank Newton. Snow was convinced by Newton's arguments that man's natural sustenance was fruit and vegetables, and thought that flesh-eating a perverse custom that caused "derangement" in the stomach and liver, an "undue impetus" to the brain, disorders of the skin and inflammation of the whole system". He also believed that all drinking water should be distilled, including that used for making tea. Newton also objected to the killing of "poor defenceless animals" and the drinking of alcohol. (111)

As a result of this pamphlet Snow became a vegetarian and joined the temperance movement and made a promise to abstain from all alcohol for life. Snow like many people dealing with problems in working-class communities, believed that alcohol was an aggravation of every social evil. "The economic waste of expenditure on drink lowers the standard of living and reduces a great many families to destitution, who, if their incomes were usefully spent, would enjoy a reasonable degree of comfort. Universal temperance would undoubtedly bring incalculable benefits and blessings." (112)

In 1836 John Snow joined the York Temperance Society and overcoming his shyness he addressed a public meeting on the subject. This was at a time when most people considered alcohol to be "highly beneficial to the health, warming and stimulating to the system, and increasing energy and physical strength... for a medical man to decry its use and refuse to prescribe it was seen at best as eccentric and by some doctors and patients as positively negligent". (113)

John Snow moved to London and enrolled at the School of Medicine in Great Windmill Street School. Six months' surgical practice at Westminster Hospital completed Snow's training and he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in May 1838. Four months later he set up in practice at 54 Frith Street, Soho, and also worked in the out-patient department of Charing Cross Hospital. (114)

In 1847 news reached Britain of an outbreak of cholera in Egypt. In his report, published in 1842, Edwin Chadwick had pointed out that nearly all these deaths had occurred in those areas with impure water supplies and inefficient sewage removal systems. (115)

In an attempt to persuade the supporters of laissez-faire to agree to a Public Health Act, the government made several changes to the bill introduced in 1847. (116)

In 1849 cholera killed over 50,000 people. John Snow published On the Mode of Communication of Cholera where he argued against the theory of miasmatism (a belief that diseases are caused by noxious form of air emanating from rotting organic matter). He pointed out the disease affected the intestines not the lungs. Snow suggested the contamination of drinking water as a result of cholera evacuations seeping into wells or running into rivers. (117)

Snow became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1850. John Snow developed a reputation as the city's leading anaesthetist and published several articles on the subject in the London Medical Gazette. (118) In April 1853, Snow gave chloroform to Queen Victoria for the birth of her son, Leopold. She wrote in her journal: "The effect was soothing, quieting and delightful beyond measure." (119)

In August 1854 cholera cases began to appear in Soho. Snow investigated all 93 local deaths. He concluded the local water supply had become contaminated, for nearly all the victims used water from the Broad Street pump. At a nearby prison, conditions were far worse, but few deaths. Snow concluded that this was because it had its own well. On 7th September he requested the parish Board of Guardians to disconnect the pump. Sceptical but desperate, they agreed and the handle was removed. After this very few cases were reported. (120)

In 1855, Snow gave his views to a House of Commons Select Committee set up to investigate cholera. Snow argued that cholera was not contagious nor spread by miasmata but was water-borne. He advocated the government invested in massive improvements in drainage and sewage. It has been claimed that his research "played some part in the investment by London and other major British cities in new main drainage and sewage systems." (121)

John Snow had poor health throughout his life and on 10th June 1858, he suffered a stroke. His condition deteriorated and he died on 16th June at his home at 18 Sackville Street, Piccadilly, London. Post-mortem examination showed evidence of old pulmonary tuberculosis and advanced renal disease. (122)

Life in Britain in the 19th Century - History

The beginning of the nineteenth century was remarkable for Great Britain for its union with Ireland. In Ireland, some of the Irish united under the and began to demand independence, being affected by the French Revolution. They formed the organization known as the United Irismen. They quickly took the lead of the whole national movement, and attempted to initiate a rebellion in 1796, with the help of the French troops which were ready to land in Ireland. The landing failed, and the English government began to eliminate its enemies. In 1798 it seized a number of the Irish leaders, and placed the whole Ireland under the military law. All the Irish uprising were suppressed, and finally the rebellion and an attempt of the French invasion led to the Act of Union with Ireland of 1801. The Dublin legislature was abolished, and one hundred Irish representatives were allowed to become members of Parliament in London. So in the very beginning of the nineteenth century the United Kingdom took the political and geographical shape of the country we know today. Still, the Act of Union caused great indignation in Ireland, and another powerful insurrection took place in 1803.

In 1790’s, the wars of the French Revolution merged into the Napoleonic Wars, as Napoleon Bonaparte took over the French revolutionary government, and Britain was engaged into the conflicts. Throughout the whole period of Napoleonic wars, Britain won two battles of great importance, one of them against the combined French and Spanish navy at Trafalgar, and another against the French army at Waterloo. The naval battle of Trafalgar was fought on October 21, 1805. The battle took place off Cape Trafalgar on the southern coast of Spain, where a British fleet of 27 ships under the command of admiral Nelson faced a slightly larger enemy fleet commanded by a French admiral. The goal of the French was to land the reinforcements in southern Italy, but they were intercepted by Nelson on October 21 and engaged in a battle. Finally, some 20 French and Spanish ships were destroyed or captured, while not a single British vessel was lost. The great victory is recorded in the name of Trafalgar square in London, which is dominated by the granite column supporting a large statue of Nelson, who was mortally wounded and died in the course of battle.

The final victory over Napoleon after his defeat at Waterloo in 1815 laid the foundations for a great extension of the British Empire. As one of the members of anti-Napoleonic coalition, Britain got a number of strategic key points, such as Malta, Mauritius, Ceylon, Heligoland and the Cape. Yet the first result of the peace was a severe political and economic crisis.

The British had assumed that the ending of war would open a vast market for their goods and had piled up stocks accordingly. Instead, there was an immediate fall in the demand for them because Europe was still too disturbed and too poor to take any significant quantity of British good. This post-war crisis was marked by a sudden outburst of class conflict, as a series of disturbances began with the introduction of the Corn Bill in 1815 and went on until 1816. The object of the Corn Laws of 1815 was to keep the price of wheat at the famine level it had reached during the Napoleonic Wars, when supplies from Poland and France were prevented from reaching Britain. The Corn Laws were repealed in 1846, a small, temporary tariff being retained till 1849. Still, there was no fall in prices, what could be explained by a number of reasons: increasing population of Britain, greater demand due to the revival of industry, bad harvests in a number of years and the Crimean War which soon interrupted the import of wheat from Poland.

Another act of law that became the result of the economic crisis was the Reform Bill of 1832, which had two sides. One regularised the franchise, giving the vote to tenant farmers in the counties and to the town middle class. Another swept away the rotten boroughs and transferred their members to the industrial towns and the counties.

In the first half of the nineteenth century a protest organisation called the Chartist Movement gained power. The Chartist Movement urged the immediate adoption of the so-called People’s Charter, which would have transformed Britain into a political democracy, and also was expected to improve living standards. Drafted in 1838, it was at the heart of a radical campaign for Parliamentary reform of the inequities remaining after the Reform Bill of 1832. Some of the main demands were universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts, annual general elections and the secret ballot. There were three unsuccessful attempts to present the Charter to the House of Commons were made in 1839, 1842 and 1848, and the rejection of the last one brought an end to the movement.

The years between 1829 and 1839 were the time of foundation of the modern police force in Great Britain. This development became the direct result of the upsurge of a militant working class movement in the first decades of the nineteenth century. The Chartist Movement with its demonstrations and riots played the major role in initiation of the reorganisation of the police. One more reason for it were the multiple problems of factory workers.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, Britain had become an industrial nation. In the earliest stages of the Industrial Revolution, when machinery was crude and unreliable, factory owners were determined to get the fullest possible use out of this machinery in the shortest possible time. Hours of work rose to sixteen and even eighteen a day, and in this way the greatest output could be obtained with the least outlay of capital. The terrible conditions of labour caused a number of legislation acts to ease the burden of factory workers. The first legislation, passed in 1802, was a very mild act to prevent some of the worst abuses connected with the employment of children. It was followed by the Cotton Factories Regulation Act of 1819 which forbade the employment of children under nine and cut their hour down to thirteen and a half a day. One more effective act was passed in 1833, which provided a number of regular inspections to control the labor conditions. In 1847 the Ten Hour’s Bill limited the hours of women and young people and secured a ten hour day for most of the men.

The years 1837 – 1901 are remarkable in the British history for what is called the Victorian period. King William IV died in June 1837, yielding the throne to his niece, Victoria, and so the great Victorian epoch started. 1837 to 1848 is considered as the early Victorian period, which was not that much different from the beginning of the nineteenth century as the following years. The time between 1848 and 1866 is known as the years of Mid-Victorian prosperity. Rapid and efficient development of manufactures and commerce took place mainly due to the removal of protective duties on food (such as he Corn Laws of 1815) and raw materials. Also, the British industry and the technological development began to experience a steep rise in those years. The first half of the nineteenth century is widely known among historians as the Railway Age. The idea of railway emerged as a result of the development of steam locomotives, but building locomotives and rail systems was so expensive that railroads were not widely used in Britain until the late 1830’s, when the increase in economics began.

The striking feature of the Victorian time was the growing urbanization of Britain, which is commonly explained as the result of the development of industry. In 1801, 20 per cent of Britain’s people lived in towns, and by the end of the nineteenth century, it was 75 per cent. The inflow of people in towns was caused by the increasing demand for new workers at factories and plants.

The middle of the century was marked by the Crimean War which lasted for three years (1853-1856). In 1853, Russia attempted to gain territories in the Balkans from the declining Ottoman Empire. Great Britain, France and Austria joined the Ottomans in a coalition against Russia to stop the expansion. Britain entered this war because Russia was seeking to control the Dardanells and thus threatened England’s Mediterranean sea routes. Although the coalition won the war, bad planning and incompetent leadership on all sides, including the British, characterized the war, leading to the large number of casualities. The exposure of the weaknesses of the British army lead to its reformation.

Among the internal problems, Britain experienced much disturbance in its relations with Ireland. A set of conflicts, based on both the political and religious grounds, followed the British attempts to suppress the Irish struggle for independence throughout the whole nineteenth century.

The three types of asylum

There were three main types of asylum built: the 'conglomerate', a hodgepodge of miscellaneous structures (Suffolk County Asylum) the 'corridor' type, with wards connected by corridors up to a quarter of a mile long (Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in Middlesex), and later the 'pavilion' type, where rows of female and male blocks each housed 150-200 patients (Leavesden Hospital, Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire). Building styles ranged from classical Greek to Gothic.

Life in Britain in the 19th Century - History

The 18th century was a boom time for building roads. At the beginning of the century it took over three days to make the journey from London to Ex­eter or Manchester. By the end of the century the same journey took about 24 hours by coach. That became possible thanks to the network of new roads built by privately owned Turnpike Trusts. Until the begin­ning of the 19th century, however, British roads were still poor. They were badly rutted and became practi­cally impassable in wet weather. Around the turn of the century engineers Tho­mas Telford and John McAdam devised methods of building uniform, smooth, and durable roadbeds on which heavy goods could be carried in carts and wagons without destroying the roads.

Water transport was rather slow, greater speeds were demanded. The idea of railway emerged as a result of the development of steam locomotivess, but building locomotives and rail systems was so expen­sive that railroads were not widely used in Britain until the 1830′s.

The first practical locomotive was constructed in England in 1804 by Richard Trevithick. It had smooth wheels operating on smooth metal rails. At first the railway was looked on mainly as a means of carrying goods, but it was soon discovered that the steam en­gine was capable of far higher speeds than had been imagined and that it could carry passengers more quick­ly and more cheaply than the stage coach.

After the successful trials of the Trevithick loco­motive, a number of moderately successful locomo­tives were built in England, primarily for use in mining. In 1823 the Stockton-Darlington Railway was opened. In 1829 the much more important line con­necting Manchester and Liverpool came into existence. It was not until 1829 that a locomotive was devel­oped for use in a railway carrying both passengers and cargo. In that year The Rocket, a locomotive de­signed by the British engineer George Stephenson, won a competition sponsored by the Liverpool and Manches­ter Railroad.

The Rocket pulled a load of three times its own weight at a speed of 20 km/hr and hauled a coach filled with passengers at 39 km/hr. This performance stimu­lated the building of other locomotives and the exten­sion of railroad lines. Investors saw railroads as a prof­it-making venture and poured vast amounts of capital into building rail systems throughout the nation.

A regular fever of railway building, accompanied by a speculation boom and much gambling in stocks and land values, set in. In the years 1834-1836 about £10,000,000 was raised for railway construction. First in the industrial areas, then on the main routes radiat­ing from London and then on the minor branches, thou­sands of miles of track were laid down.

Much of the capital expended on these works brought in no immediate profit, and in 1845 there was a severe crisis extending to many branches of industry and affecting a number of the banks. This crisis soon passed, being rather the result of speculative optimism than of any real instability of the railway companies, and was followed by the new outburst of building.

The railway building marked the beginning of a tremendous increase in all branches of heavy indus­try, especially in such key industries as coal mining and iron. The output of pig iron was 678,000 tons in 1830 in 1852 it was 2,701,000 tons. Coal output rose from 10,000,000 tons in 1800 to 100,000,000 tons in 1865.

Britain was the first country to create a railway system. It also started to build railways in countries all over the world, which proved to be a very profitable business. Railroads played an especially important role in the colonial and semi-colonial countries that had not a sufficiently dense population or money enough to build for themselves. Such railroads were usually not only built by British contractors but financed by loans raised in London.

The immediate internal effect of the railway boom was to create a large demand for labour, both directly for railway construction and indirectly in the coal min­ing, iron and steel and other industries. In the second place, the railways made it much easier for workers to get from place to place, to leave the villages and find a factory town where work was to be had.

In 1801, 20 per cent of Britain’s people lived in towns. By the end of the 19th century, it was 75 per cent. London especially was like a great octopus with its tentacles reaching out into the surrounding coun­try. Life in the slums of big cities was grim. Although the population as a whole was going up, more children died in the cities than anywhere else. But rail travel made it easier for the better-off to get to work. So suburbs grew up on the edge of towns, with better and bigger houses, trees and gardens.


Historically, Britons were enslaved in large numbers, typically by rich merchants and warlords who exported indigenous slaves from pre-Roman times, [3] and by foreign invaders from the Roman Empire during the Roman Conquest of Britain. [4] [5] [6]

A thousand years later, British merchants became major participants in the Atlantic slave trade in the early modern period. Then wealthy people living within the British Isles, as well as in British colonies, might own African slaves. In a triangular trade-system, ship-owners transported enslaved West Africans to the New World (especially to the Caribbean) to be sold there. The ships brought commodities back to Britain then exported goods to Africa. Some entrepreneurs brought slaves to Britain, [6] where they were kept in bondage. After a long campaign for abolition led by Thomas Clarkson and (in the House of Commons) by William Wilberforce, Parliament prohibited dealing in slaves by passing the Abolition Act of 1807, [7] which the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron enforced. Britain used its influence to persuade other countries around the world to abolish the slave trade and to sign treaties to allow the Royal Navy to interdict slaving ships.

In 1772 Somerset v Stewart held that slavery had no basis in English law and was thus a violation of Habeas Corpus. This built on the earlier Cartwright case from the reign of Elizabeth I which had similarly held the concept of slavery was not recognised in English law. This case was generally taken at the time to have decided that the condition of slavery did not exist under English law. Legally ("de jure") slave owners could not win in court, and abolitionists provided legal help for enslaved black people. However actual ("de facto") slavery continued in Britain with ten to fourteen thousand slaves in England and Wales, who were mostly domestic servants. When slaves were brought in from the colonies they had to sign waivers that made them indentured servants while in Britain. Most modern historians generally agree that slavery continued in Britain into the late 18th century, finally disappearing around 1800. [8]

Slavery elsewhere in the British Empire was not affected—indeed it grew rapidly especially in the Caribbean colonies. Slavery was abolished in the colonies by buying out the owners in 1833 by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. Most slaves were freed, with exceptions and delays provided for the East India Company, Ceylon, and Saint Helena. These exceptions were eliminated in 1843. [9]

The prohibition on slavery and servitude is now codified under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in force since 1953 and incorporated directly into United Kingdom law by the Human Rights Act 1998. Article 4 of the Convention also bans forced or compulsory labour, with some exceptions such as a criminal penalty or military service. [ citation needed ]

From before Roman times, slavery was prevalent in Britain, with indigenous Britons being routinely exported. [10] [11] Following the Roman Conquest of Britain slavery was expanded and industrialised. [12]

After the fall of Roman Britain, both the Angles and Saxons propagated the slave system. [13] Some of the earliest accounts of slaves from early medieval Britain comes from the account of fair-haired boys from York seen in Rome by Pope Gregory the Great.

Vikings traded with the Gaelic, Pictish, Brythonic and Saxon kingdoms in between raiding them for slaves. [14] The Saxon slave traders sometimes worked in league with Norse traders often selling Britons to the Irish. [15] In 870, Vikings besieged and captured the stronghold of Alt Clut (the capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde) and in 871 took most of the site's inhabitants, most likely by Olaf the White and Ivar the Boneless, to the Dublin slave markets. [14] Maredudd ab Owain (d. 999) paid a large ransom for 2,000 Welsh slaves, [14] which demonstrates the large-scale slave raiding upon the British Isles.

Anglo-Saxon opinion turned against the sale of slaves abroad: a law of Ine of Wessex stated that anyone selling his own countryman, whether bond or free, across the sea, was to pay his own weregild in penalty, even when the man so sold was guilty of crime. [16] Nevertheless, legal penalties and economic pressures that led to default in payments maintained the supply of slaves, and in the 11th century there was still a slave trade operating out of Bristol, as a passage in the Vita Wulfstani makes clear. [17] [5]

The Bodmin manumissions, a manuscript now in the British Library [18] preserves the names and details of slaves freed in Bodmin (the then principal town of Cornwall) during the 9th or 10th centuries - indicating both that slavery existed in Cornwall at that time and that numerous Cornish slave-owners eventually set their slaves free. [19] [20]

According to the Domesday Book census, over 10% of England's population in 1086 were slaves. [21]

While there was no legislation against slavery, [22] William the Conqueror introduced a law preventing the sale of slaves overseas. [23]

In 1102, the Church Council of London convened by Anselm issued a decree: "Let no one dare hereafter to engage in the infamous business, prevalent in England, of selling men like animals." [24] However, the Council had no legislative powers, and no act of law was valid unless signed by the monarch. [25]

The influence of the new Norman aristocracy led to the decline of slavery in England. Contemporary writers noted that the Scottish and Welsh took captives as slaves during raids, a practice which was no longer common in England by the 12th century. By the start of the 13th century references to people being taken as slaves stopped. According to historian John Gillingham, by about 1200 slavery in the British Isles was non-existent. [22]

Transportation to the colonies as a criminal or an indentured servant served as punishment for both great and petty crimes in England from the 17th century until well into the 19th century. [26] A sentence could be for life or for a specific period. The penal system required convicts to work on government projects such as road construction, building works and mining, or assigned them to free individuals as unpaid labour. Women were expected to work as domestic servants and farm labourers. Like slaves, indentured servants could be bought and sold, could not marry without the permission of their owner, were subject to physical punishment, and saw their obligation to labour enforced by the courts. However, they did retain certain heavily restricted rights this contrasts with slaves who had none. [27]

A convict who had served part of his time might apply for a "ticket of leave", granting them some prescribed freedoms. This enabled some convicts to resume a more normal life, to marry and raise a family, and enabled a few to develop the colonies while removing them from the society. [28] Exile was an essential component, and was thought to be a major deterrent to crime. Transportation was also seen as a humane and productive alternative to execution, which would most likely have been the sentence for many if transportation had not been introduced. [ citation needed ]

The transportation of English subjects overseas can be traced back to the English Vagabonds Act 1597. During the reign of Henry VIII, an estimated 72,000 people were put to death for a variety of crimes. [29] [ failed verification ] An alternative practice, borrowed from the Spanish, was to commute the death sentence and allow the use of convicts as a labour force for the colonies. One of the first references to a person being transported comes in 1607 when "an apprentice dyer was sent to Virginia from Bridewell for running away with his master's goods." [30] The Act was little used despite attempts by James I who, with limited success, tried to encourage its adoption by passing a series of Privy Council Orders in 1615, 1619 and 1620. [31]

Transportation was seldom used as a criminal sentence until the Piracy Act 1717, "An Act for the further preventing Robbery, Burglary, and other Felonies, and for the more effectual Transportation of Felons, and unlawful Exporters of Wool and for declaring the Law upon some Points relating to Pirates", established a seven-year penal transportation as a possible punishment for those convicted of lesser felonies, or as a possible sentence to which capital punishment might be commuted by royal pardon. Criminals were transported to North America from 1718 to 1776. When the American revolution made transportation to the Thirteen Colonies unfeasible, those sentenced to it were typically punished with imprisonment or hard labour instead. From 1787 to 1868, criminals convicted and sentenced under the Act were transported to the colonies in Australia. [ citation needed ]

After the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and subsequent Cromwellian invasion, the English Parliament passed the Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652 which classified the Irish population into several categories according to their degree of involvement in the uprising and the subsequent war. Those who had participated in the uprising or assisted the rebels in any way were sentenced to be hanged and to have their property confiscated. Other categories were sentenced to banishment with whole or partial confiscation of their estates. While the majority of the resettlement took place within Ireland to the province of Connaught, perhaps as many as 50,000 were transported to the colonies in the West Indies and in North America. [32] Irish, Welsh and Scottish people were sent to work on sugar plantations in Barbados during the time of Cromwell. [33]

During the early colonial period, the Scots and the English, along with other western European nations, dealt with their "Gypsy problem" by transporting them as slaves in large numbers to North America and the Caribbean. Cromwell shipped Romanichal Gypsies as slaves to the southern plantations, and there is documentation of Gypsies being owned by former black slaves in Jamaica. [34]

Long before the Highland Clearances, some chiefs, such as Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, sold some of their clans into indenture in North America. Their goal was to alleviate over-population and lack of food resources in the glens. [ citation needed ]

Numerous Highland Jacobite supporters, captured in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden and rigorous Government sweeps of the Highlands, were imprisoned on ships on the River Thames. Some were sentenced to transportation to the Carolinas as indentured servants. [35]

For nearly two hundred years in the history of coal mining in Scotland, miners were bonded to their "maisters" by a 1606 Act "Anent Coalyers and Salters". The Colliers and Salters (Scotland) Act 1775 stated that "many colliers and salters are in a state of slavery and bondage" and announced emancipation those starting work after 1 July 1775 would not become slaves, while those already in a state of slavery could, after 7 or 10 years depending on their age, apply for a decree of the Sheriff's Court granting their freedom. Few could afford this, until a further law in 1799 established their freedom and made this slavery and bondage illegal. [36] [37]

From the 17th century to the 19th century, workhouses took in people whose poverty left them no other alternative. [ citation needed ] They were employed under forced labour conditions. Workhouses took in abandoned babies, usually presumed to be illegitimate. When they grew old enough, they were used as child labour. Charles Dickens represented such issues in his fiction. A life example was Henry Morton Stanley. This was a time when many children worked if families were poor, everyone worked. Only in 1833 and 1844 were the first general protective laws against child labour, the Factory Acts, passed in Britain. [38]

From the 16th to the 19th centuries it is estimated that between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and Barbary slave traders and sold as slaves. [39] The slavers got their name from the Barbary Coast, that is, the Mediterranean shores of North Africa – what is now Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. There are reports of Barbary raids and kidnappings of those in France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom and as far north as Iceland and the fate of those abducted into slavery in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire. [40]

Villagers along the south coast of England petitioned the king to protect them from abduction by Barbary pirates. Item 20 of The Grand Remonstrance, [41] a list of grievances against Charles I presented to him in 1641, contains the following complaint about Barbary pirates of the Ottoman Empire abducting English people into slavery: [ citation needed ]

And although all this was taken upon pretense of guarding the seas, yet a new unheard-of tax of ship-money was devised, and upon the same pretense, by both which there was charged upon the subject near £700,000 some years, and yet the merchants have been left so naked to the violence of the Turkish pirates, that many great ships of value and thousands of His Majesty's subjects have been taken by them, and do still remain in miserable slavery.

Admiral Sir John Hawkins of Plymouth, a notable Elizabethan seafarer, is widely acknowledged to be "the Pioneer of the English Slave Trade". In 1554–1555, Hawkins formed a slave trading syndicate of wealthy merchants. He sailed with three ships for the Caribbean via Sierra Leone, hijacked a Portuguese slave ship and sold the 300 slaves from it in Santo Domingo. During a second voyage in 1564, his crew captured 400 Africans and sold them at Rio de la Hacha in present-day Colombia, making a 60% profit for his financiers. [42] A third voyage involved both buying slaves directly in Africa and capturing a Portuguese ship with its cargo upon reaching the Caribbean, Hawkins sold all the slaves. On his return, he published a book entitled An Alliance to Raid for Slaves. [43] It is estimated that Hawkins transported 1,500 enslaved Africans across the Atlantic during his four voyages of the 1560s, before stopping in 1568 after a battle with the Spanish in which he lost five of his seven ships. [44] The English involvement in the Atlantic slave trade only resumed in the 1640s after the country acquired an American colony (Virginia). [45]

By the mid-18th century, London had the largest African population in Britain, made up of free and enslaved people, as well as many runaways. The total number may have been about 10,000. [46] Owners of African slaves in England would advertise slave-sales and rewards for the recapture of runaways. [47] [48]

A number of freed slaves managed to achieve prominence in British society. Ignatius Sancho (1729–1780), known as "The Extraordinary Negro", opened his own grocer's shop in Westminster. [49] He was famous for his poetry and music, and his friends included the novelist Laurence Sterne, David Garrick the actor and the Duke and Duchess of Montague. He is best known for his letters which were published after his death. Others such as Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano were equally well known, and along with Ignatius Sancho were active in the abolition campaign. [50]

Triangular trade Edit

By the 18th century, the slave trade became a major economic mainstay for such cities as Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow, engaged in the so-called "Triangular trade". The ships set out from Britain, loaded with trade goods which were exchanged on the West African shores for slaves captured by local rulers from deeper inland the slaves were transported through the infamous "Middle Passage" across the Atlantic, and were sold at considerable profit for labour in plantations. The ships were loaded with export crops and commodities, the products of slave labour, such as cotton, sugar and rum, and returned to Britain to sell the items.

The Isle of Man and the transatlantic slave trade Edit

The Isle of Man was involved in the transatlantic African slave trade. Goods from the slave trade were bought and sold on the Isle of Man, and Manx merchants, seamen, and ships were involved in the trade. [51]

No legislation was ever passed in England that legalised slavery, unlike the Portuguese Ordenações Manuelinas (1481–1514), the Dutch East India Company Ordinances (1622), and France's Code Noir (1685), and this caused confusion when English people brought home slaves they had legally purchased in the colonies. [52] [53] In Butts v. Penny (1677) 2 Lev 201, 3 Keb 785, an action was brought to recover the value of 10 slaves who had been held by the plaintiff in India. The court held that an action for trover would lie in English law, because the sale of non-Christians as slaves was common in India. However, no judgment was delivered in the case. [54] [55]

An English court case of 1569 involving Cartwright who had bought a slave from Russia ruled that English law could not recognise slavery. This ruling was overshadowed by later developments, particularly in the Navigation Acts, but was upheld by the Lord Chief Justice in 1701 when he ruled that a slave became free as soon as he arrived in England. [56]

Agitation saw a series of judgments repulse the tide of slavery. In Smith v. Gould (1705–07) 2 Salk 666, John Holt (Lord Chief Justice) stated that by "the common law no man can have a property in another". (See the "infidel rationale".)

In 1729 the Attorney General and Solicitor General of England signed the Yorke–Talbot slavery opinion, expressing their view (and, by implication, that of the Government) that slavery of Africans was lawful in England. At this time slaves were openly bought and sold on commodities markets at London and Liverpool. [57] Slavery was also accepted in Britain's many colonies.

Lord Henley LC said in Shanley v. Harvey (1763) 2 Eden 126, 127 that as "soon as a man sets foot on English ground he is free".

After R v. Knowles, ex parte Somersett (1772) 20 State Tr 1 the law remained unsettled, although the decision was a significant advance for, at the least, preventing the forceable removal of anyone from England, whether or not a slave, against his will. A man named James Somersett was the slave of a Boston customs officer. They came to England, and Somersett escaped. Captain Knowles captured him and took him on his boat, Jamaica bound. Three abolitionists, saying they were his "godparents", applied for a writ of habeas corpus. One of Somersett's lawyers, Francis Hargrave, stated "In 1569, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a lawsuit was brought against a man for beating another man he had bought as a slave overseas. The record states, 'That in the 11th [year] of Elizabeth [1569], one Cartwright brought a slave from Russia and would scourge him for which he was questioned and it was resolved, that England was too pure an air for a slave to breathe in'." He argued that the court had ruled in Cartwright's case that English common law made no provision for slavery, and without a basis for its legality, slavery would otherwise be unlawful as false imprisonment and/or assault. [58] In his judgment of 22 June 1772, Lord Chief Justice William Murray, Lord Mansfield, of the Court of King's Bench, started by talking about the capture and forcible detention of Somersett. He finished with:

So high an act of dominion must be recognised by the law of the country where it is used. The power of a master over his slave has been exceedingly different, in different countries.

The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory.

It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England and therefore the black must be discharged. [59]

Several different reports of Mansfield's decision appeared. Most disagree as to what was said. The decision was only given orally no formal written record of it was issued by the court. Abolitionists widely circulated the view that it was declared that the condition of slavery did not exist under English law, although Mansfield later said that all that he decided was that a slave could not be forcibly removed from England against his will. [60]

After reading about Somersett's Case, Joseph Knight, an enslaved African who had been purchased by his master John Wedderburn in Jamaica and brought to Scotland, left him. Married and with a child, he filed a freedom suit, on the grounds that he could not be held as a slave in Great Britain. In the case of Knight v. Wedderburn (1778), Wedderburn said that Knight owed him "perpetual servitude". The Court of Sessions of Scotland ruled against him, saying that chattel slavery was not recognised under the law of Scotland, and slaves could seek court protection to leave a master or avoid being forcibly removed from Scotland to be returned to slavery in the colonies. [61]

The abolitionist movement was led by Quakers and other Non-conformists, but the Test Act prevented them from becoming Members of Parliament. William Wilberforce, a member of the House of Commons as an independent, became the Parliamentary spokesman for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. His conversion to Evangelical Christianity in 1784 played a key role in interesting him in this social reform. [62] William Wilberforce's Slave Trade Act 1807 abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. It was not until the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 that the institution finally was abolished, but on a gradual basis. Since land owners in the British West Indies were losing their unpaid labourers, they received compensation totalling £20 million. [63]

The Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron (or Preventative Squadron) at substantial expense in 1808 after Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act. The squadron's task was to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa, preventing the slave trade by force of arms, including the interception of slave ships from Europe, the United States, the Barbary pirates, West Africa and the Ottoman Empire. [64]

The Church of England was implicated in slavery. Slaves were owned by the Anglican Church's Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPGFP), which had sugar plantations in the West Indies. When slaves were emancipated by Act of the British Parliament in 1834, the British government paid compensation to slave owners. Among those they paid were the Bishop of Exeter and three business colleagues, who received compensation for 665 slaves. [65] The compensation of British slaveholders was almost £17 billion in current money. [66]

Historians and economists have debated the economic effects of slavery for Great Britain and the North American colonies. Many analysts, such as Eric Williams, suggest that it allowed the formation of capital that financed the Industrial Revolution, [67] although the evidence is inconclusive. Slave labour was integral to early settlement of the colonies, which needed more people for labour and other work. Also, slave labour produced the major consumer goods that were the basis of world trade during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: coffee, cotton, rum, sugar, and tobacco. Slavery was far more important to the profitability of plantations and the economy in the American South and the slave trade and associated businesses were important to both New York and New England. [68]

In 2006, the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, expressed his deep sorrow over the slave trade, which he described as "profoundly shameful". [69] Some campaigners had demanded reparations from the former slave trading nations. [70]

In recent years, several institutions have begun to evaluate their own links with slavery. For instance, English Heritage produced a book on the extensive links between slavery and British country houses in 2013, Jesus College has a working group to examine the legacy of slavery within the college, and the Church of England, the Bank of England, Lloyd's of London and Greene King have all apologised for their historic links to slavery. [71] [72] [73] [74] [75]

University College London has developed a database examining the commercial, cultural, historical, imperial, physical and political legacies of slavery in Britain. [76]

The UK is a destination country for men, women, and children primarily from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe who are subjected to human trafficking for the purposes of sexual slavery, forced labour, and domestic servitude. [77] Research published in 2015, following the announcement of the government's 'Modern Slavery Strategy', [78] estimated the number of potential victims of modern slavery in the UK to be around 10–13 thousand, of whom roughly 7–10 thousand were currently unrecorded (given that 2744 confirmed cases were already known to the National Crime Agency). [79]

Living in fear: the dangers of Victorian London

From the terror of being strangled by violent thieves to tales that the sewers were infested with a squealing band of pigs, 19th-century Londoners spent much of their time living in fear. Emma Butcher and Tim Blythe reveal what seven such scare stories can tell us about the psyche of the imperial capital

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Published: December 22, 2020 at 8:00 am

The garrotting panic of 1862

Victorian London was a sprawling metropolis, an imperial capital, the nerve-centre of the mightiest nation on Earth. Yet it was also a city wracked by fear. Confronted by rapid industrialisation, crowded slums and graphic media reports of a thriving criminal underbelly, many Londoners may have come to the conclusion that danger lurked in every shadow. And a single mugging in 1862 apparently confirmed their fears.

On 17 July, Hugh Pilkington, the Liberal MP for Blackburn, was walking home from a late sitting in the Commons when he was choked and robbed (he survived the attack). The press latched on to this incident and ramped up its coverage on street violence, despite no indication that criminal activity had increased. The public panicked, believing that criminals stalked the streets, searching for victims to strangle or ‘garrotte’.

The media’s sensationalism linked the mythical rise in violence to ‘ticket-of-leave’ men – convicted criminals who were granted conditional parole – and the recent reduction of criminals transported to Australia. To combat this threat, Punch produced a number of cartoons demonstrating how individuals could deal with the risk of garrotting, such as by walking back-to-back in pairs or by wearing protective clothing in the form of a collar studded with huge spikes (the first Metropolitan Police officers were given these collars as standard issue).

Press coverage also criticised the ‘ineffective’ police force and called for the redrafting of sympathetic prison reform proposals. The campaign was so pronounced that parliament rapidly drew-up and passed the Garrotters Act in 1863, which brought back floggings as a punishment for violent robbery. So, although the panic itself was short-lived, the change to prison reform, favouring deterrence over rehabilitation, ensured that harsh attitudes towards criminality endured. For, as The Times noted: “It is of far more moment to a Londoner that he should be able at all hours of the day or night to walk safely in the streets of London.”

The London beer flood

During the 19th century, alcohol was increasingly viewed as a perilous substance with the capacity to cause society to crumble. Events on 17 October 1814 did little to assuage these anxieties. Horse Shoe Brewery, located just off Tottenham Court Road, specialised in the making of porter. On the day in question, George Crick, a brewery employee, noticed a breakage in the enormous brewing vats, although he thought there was no imminent danger. Unbeknown to him, pressure was building within the damaged vat until it exploded with such power that it caused another nearby vat to burst too.

The result was a tidal wave of beer, supposedly 15 feet high and approaching 1 million litres in volume. This tsunami of porter crashed out of the brewery and into the surround- ing slums of St Giles Rookery with such force that it de- stroyed walls and completely flooded basements, dashing people “to pieces”. A passing American tourist wrote:

In total, eight people, all working-class women and children, lost their lives. Soon after, labourers were assigned the “distressing task” of clearing the fallout, working in the midst of “offensive and over- powering” beer fumes. Rumours were soon doing the rounds that a number died from alcohol poison- ing after gleefully drinking from the sea of beer that covered the streets. However, newspaper articles actually report the opposite, referencing the “caution and humanity” of locals in rescuing victims and paying their respect to those who died.

Regardless, the incident served as a reminder to London’s self-appointed moral guardians that alcohol posed a threat to the poor. The Morning Post even compared breweries to “magazines for gun-powder”. The message was clear: it was not only dangerous to drink beer, but also to produce it in the first place.

The pig-faced woman of Manchester Square

In summer 1815, the night-skies of London were lit up to celebrate Britain’s victory at the battle of Waterloo. But not all eyes were on the bright lights. A magnificently dressed woman was seen sitting in a carriage driving about the sights, but on closer inspection, observers were shocked to see that she had the face of a pig.

Previously, a rumour had swept London that a pig-faced noblewoman lived in Marylebone, who ate from a silver trough, and when spoken to, replied only in grunts. Although the woman was reported to be “most delicately formed, and of the greatest symmetry”, atop her neck sat a “hideous face”. Her blend of beauty and beast inspired various artists, such as the famed caricaturist George Cruikshank, who drew her playing piano in an alluring white dress, with a transparent veil covering her snout.

The media suggested that the pig-faced woman had come to London in order to find a husband, and some suitors went as far to write into the papers to appeal to her: “A SINGLE GENTLEMAN…,” wrote one, “is desirous of explaining his Mind to the Friends of a Person who has a Misfortune in her Face. His intentions are sincere.”

Other suitors called on her in person, only to find she was far from wife material. One baronet was reported to have called upon the “great lady”, only to recoil from her with shouts of horror as she attacked his neck, causing an injury that required treatment by a surgeon.

Theories on the origins of such stories vary. It’s been suggested that they were inspired by a real-life woman with a facial disfigurement, or, alternatively, that they were based on a mythological history of pig-faced women dating back to the 1600s.

Either way – presented as violent, repulsive and sexual in equal parts – the pig-faced woman posed a threat to traditional gender roles. She showed that women did not necessarily fit into Victorian ideals of beauty, and could instead be enigmatic, other-worldly and ultimately dangerous.

The train for the dead

In the winter of 1854, a new railway line was opened in London. The Illustrated London News was full of praise, writing joyfully of people leaving the dense city to “reach the open country with the speed of the winds”.

There was just one difference about these country-bound travellers: many of them were dead. London’s Necropolis Railways was built in response to the crisis of overcrowding in the capital. Graveyards were stretched to their limits sewers and chapels were broken into to dump bodies and the ongoing cholera epidemic of the 1840s and 50s led to thou-

Enter Richard Broun and Richard Sprye, entrepreneurs who proposed a solution: to transport bodies and mourners to Brookwood Cemetery near Woking in Surrey, which wasthe largest cemetery in the world and affection- ately named ‘the city of the dead’.

Despite his good intentions, Broun made an unfortunate blip in advertising. In stating his belief that all deceased should lie “in one vast heap… mingled together”, he triggered a very English panic – one that reveals a great deal about Victorian anxieties over class. Respectable, middle and upper-class Londoners believed fervently that they should be separated from the ‘great unwashed’ even in death. The bishop of London, Charles Blomfield, violently opposed “persons of opposite character carried in the same conveyance”. The idea of a respected church member being carried alongside a profligate would “shock the feelings of his friends”.

Soon, the carriages had been divided according to social rank, as was ‘Cemetery Station’ in London, with the third-class waiting room on the bottom floor, and then second and first-class receptions, accessed by a grand staircase.

Despite these problems, the railway was so successful that it ran until the Second World War, carrying more than 200,000 Londoners to their final resting place through a portal between the living and the dead.

Haunted to death at Berkeley Square

“The cobwebs in the windows lie, And dirt and dust are there What is the unknown history, Of 50, Berkeley square?”

These words, written by the Victorian poet Frederick Doveton, reflect the unease and mystery surrounding a run-down townhouse in the affluent London district of Mayfair. In the late 19th century, it gained a reputation as being the most haunted house in London, with people driven mad at the sight of a horrible apparition in an attic room.

Soon, 50 Berkeley Square’s evil aura was the talk of dinner parties, and manna from heaven for the press. In 1879, The Mayfair Magazine reported that a Lord Lyttelton had shot at something through the darkness, which left no trace but the bullet holes in the floorboards. The periodical Notes and Queries published a letter that wrote of a maid, who was found, “lying at the foot of the bed in strong convulsions”. She was hospitalised with insanity and died the following morning.

The most common rumour was that 50 Berkeley Square was occupied by a Mr Myers, who had been jilted at the altar and now wandered the house in a state of lunacy. Another was that the house belonged to a Mr Du Pré, who “shut up his lunatic brother there in a cage in one of the attics… the poor captive was so violent that he could only be fed through a hole”.

Regardless of the truth, the house’s dilapidated and enigmatic state allowed it to embody contemporary anxieties that ranged from the rising interest in spiritualism and the occult, to the mannerisms and treatment of mentally ill people. It was not merely the subject of a fireside story, but an embodiment of the dark side of Victorian high-class society.

The sewer swine of Hampstead

Most people have heard the myth that alligators roam the sewers of New York. But did you know that London’s underground waterways were rumoured to be infested with a squealing band of sewer pigs? In the mid-19th century, increasing urbanisation meant that London’s sewer system was breaching its limits, the streets overrunning with human filth.

Nobody knew the extent of these unsanitary conditions better than the ‘toshers’, who sifted through sewer matter for treasure. In his book London Labour and the London Poor, the journalist Henry Mayhew interviewed these sewage sifters along with other characters of the Victorian underworld, revealing

the city’s dark and disturbing secrets: “There is a strange tale in existence among the shore-workers, of a race of wild hogs inhabit- ing the sewers in the neighbourhood ofHampstead. The story runs, that a sow… littered and reared her offspring in the drain… this breed multiplied exceedingly, and have become almost as ferocious as they are numerous.”

The image of an army of stinking swine haunting the underground tunnels captured the imagination of the media and the public, highlighting the uncontrollable vastness of an ever-growing London, and the types of beasts that feed on urban waste. In 1859, The Daily Telegraph reported: “London is an amalgam of worlds within worlds… and the ignorance of its penetralia [hidden spaces] common to us who dwell therein. It has been said that Hampstead sewers shelter a monstrous breed of black swine… whose ferocious snouts will one day up-root High- gate archway.”

At the end of the 1850s, London sewers were overhauled and the story of the black sewer swine became nothing but an urban legend. But the fact that it had such an impact on popular culture demonstrates the anxieties all classes felt over London’s infrastructure and the enduring fears of what monsters lurk beneath cities’ subterranean spaces.

Spring-Heeled Jack’s reign of terror

Victorian London is known for blurring the line between man and myth. The same streets that bore legendary and real-life monsters, such as Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, were also home to one who straddled both fact and fiction: Spring-Heeled Jack. He may be little remembered now, but Jack haunted Londoners’ dreams for almost a century.

Descriptions of Jack are inconsistent, but his appearance is frequently portrayed as devil-like, and he was apparently able to leap over walls, fences and, in some cases, small buildings. Characteristically, he was known for ambushing pedestrians, ranging from lone wanderers to mail coachmen.

Although Jack did attack men, the assaults that attracted most attention were those on women, which often involved him clawing at their bodies, scaring them into fits. In some cases, he attacked them while vomiting blue and white flames.

In the 1830s, Jack’s escapades were brought to the attention of the Lord Mayor of London, Sir John Cowan, by an anonymous letter, which blamed some individuals of “higher-rank” who had taken part in a reckless wager. Although sceptical at first, The Times follow-on report led to south Londoners coming forward with similar stories, and, eventually, new crimes were attributed to him in all four corners of the United Kingdom.

On the one hand, Jack was a terrifying symbol of criminal and sexual degeneracy on the other he was a prankster and ‘bogeyman’, used to frighten children into behaving. He became a recurrent character in several penny dreadfuls (one-penny fiction) and even replaced the devil in Punch and Judy shows. By the 1900s, Jack had lost the spring in his step, described by The Idler as “gaunt and weird, with a tangled beard”. Yet his persistent presence throughout the Victorian era shows how the anxieties of the age rippled through layers of reality and imprinted themselves on the macabre and the bizarre.

Emma Butcher specialises in Romantic and Victorian literature and culture at the University of Leicester. Her books include The Brontës and War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). Timothy Blythe is a freelance historian based in the south Shropshire hills

Victorian Spiritualism Links

Modern Spiritualism dates from the 1840s. It rapidly became fashionable with both men and women and across all social classes and acquired the name Spiritualism in the 1850s.

In 1916 Arthur Conan Doyle made a declaration that would impact the rest of his life. He stated his belief in Spiritualism.

The College of Psychic Studies an educational charity offering regular classes, workshops, lectures and private consultations in the field of personal, psychic & spiritual development and the healing arts

The primary purpose of the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain: is to offer evidence through Mediumship of the continuation of the personality after physical death, and to relieve suffering through Spiritual Healing.

What was life like as a 19th-century servant?

In recent years, TV dramas including Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey have stoked the nation’s fascination with the daily lives of servants. But what was life really like for people who served in the country houses and estates of the past?

This competition is now closed

Published: May 22, 2019 at 10:20 am

Could you have handled the long days and arduous tasks of a servant in a grand Victorian house? Here, Pamela Sambrook reconstructs a typical day in the life of a 19th-century servant, sharing a household timetable with the tasks of the kitchen staff, a footman and a junior housemaid…

The research and recreation of servants’ lives has been a popular topic in the media for many years. But how much is actually known about their daily lives?

We know there seems to have been strong traditional elements in servants’ routines only men, for example, cleaned silver or polished the most valuable furniture. These traditions aimed to make it easier for new staff to fit in quickly and efficiently.

We also know that servant mealtimes were pivotal to the timing of the whole day, and changed only slowly through the 19th century. The first break was usually taken mid-morning and involved a drink. The main meal – ‘dinner’– was taken at around midday, while ‘tea’ was a very light meal served at around 4 o’clock. ‘Supper’ was usually taken at 9 o’clock, after most of the work had been finished. By the end of the 19th century, the time of servants’ dinner slipped later and later into the evening and a new lighter meal, ‘lunch’, took its place in the middle of the day, a division that worked well for the kitchen.

For researchers, it is relatively easy to construct a timetable of servants’ daily work during the 19th century. Documents containing actual memories, such as diaries, are particularly useful as these give us a framework on which to build even if they are not always reliable in detail. It is, however, difficult to place specific individuals in specific households before 1837, when civil registration of births, marriages and deaths was introduced in the UK, and particularly before 1841, when the first comprehensive national census was held. Photographic images, of course, are nearly impossible to find. Information gathered by researchers is usually restricted to very rare diaries and the occasional instructional manual designed for use by servants or their employers, which presented invaluable guidelines as to how to run a household efficiently.

Using these instructional manuals, it is possible to reconstruct a timetable that might have been used, for instance, in a household such as Tatton Hall in Cheshire, which was the country seat of the Egerton family for nearly 400 years until it was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1958. Although every great house functioned slightly differently – and employers often had their own sometimes eccentric requirements – the below timetable shows a workable routine that may have been in place in the mid-19th century. It includes the schedules of a scullery man, a kitchen maid, a footman, a chef and a junior housemaid.

It’s an early start for all. At 6 o’clock in the morning,the scullery man opens up the kitchen, cleans and lights the fires, fills the coal buckets and prepares the spit and dripping pan. He cleans the kitchen, the chef’s private room, pantry and larders, and scours the dressers, tables and cutting boards. At least twice a week, he will also scrub the floor with sand.

The kitchen maid also rises at the same time. She helps with the cleaning, lays out all ingredients and utensils needed for the day ahead, and then sets to work cooking the servants’ breakfasts.

At 6.30, the footman opens the shutters in the main rooms and takes coals to the house’s sitting rooms. He brushes and sponges his own and his master’s clothes as needed, and cleans boots and knives, as well as the butler’s pantry. He trims the household lamps, and cleans and fills them. After this, he changes into a clean apron and lays the family breakfast table and sideboard.

Meanwhile, a junior housemaid reports to the housekeeper’s room and has her housemaid’s box checked for supplies. Setting to work, she draws back and shakes the curtains in the drawing room and cleans the fireplaces. This is an arduous task: she is expected to rake out the fireplaces and put ashes in her housemaid’s box, light the fire, wash the hearthstone and put the coal buckets out in the hall for the footmen to collect and fill. She also takes any small rugs or druggets [floor coverings] outside to shake. At least twice a week, she hand-brushes the carpet, then turns over the edges and sweeps the wooden floor. As well as collecting the dust, it was also important to check for valuable items like earrings that may have been dropped. She then shuts up the room for 15 minutes while the dust settles, and repeats this in the music or sitting rooms. After the dust has settled, she also is expected to return to both rooms and vigorously ‘rub’ the furniture, using two cloths, one in each hand.


At 8 o’clock, the chef enters the kitchen for a minor domestic ritual: checking the cleanliness of the hands, hair and uniforms of the kitchen and scullery staff. He also checks the fires and utensils.

Meanwhile, the kitchen maid sends breakfasts to the servants’ hall and the steward’s room, where all the senior staff, including the chef, eat their meals. The remaining kitchen staff eat in the kitchen, after which the scullery man washes the breakfast dishes.

After eating his own breakfast in the servants’ hall, the footman calls each single gentleman in the house and knocks and enters their room, opening the curtains and collecting any clothes from the night before.

After her morning tasks are complete, the junior housemaid washes her hands and changes from a heavy grey working apron into a clean white one. She collects a ‘calling tray’ from the stillroom and ‘calls’ family members and visitors, excepting any single gentlemen. She then takes hot water to each bedroom wash stand before eating her own breakfast.


The kitchen maid cooks and sends up the family breakfasts, while the scullery man washes up all the pans, dishes and china – but not the glasses and silver, which are washed solely by the footmen.

Meanwhile, the chef checks produce from the estate garden and farm, talks to the gardener and butcher, and weighs and checks the day’s meat. He also consults with the housekeeper about provisions and plans the menus, usually a day ahead, working from the cook’s room. He writes up the current day’s menus on a slate for the staff.

Later, the scullery man helps the kitchen maid to wash, trim and cut up vegetables, pluck game and poultry, and begin making stocks and soups.

Upstairs, the footman carries dishes to the sideboard in the breakfast room. He waits as the family breakfasts and then removes the breakfast things, folding up the table cloth, sweeping up crumbs, making up the fire and sweeping the hearth. He returns the china to the kitchen and stillroom and takes the silver and glass to butler’s pantry. Later, he checks the fires in all downstairs rooms and tidies the gentlemen’s smoking room. He then cleans and polishes the silver, including the bedroom candlesticks, ready for the evening.

While the family and any guests are at breakfast, the junior housemaid goes to each of the main bedrooms and opens the window, throwing bedclothes over the end of the bed to air, and emptying hot water bottles or any ‘slops’ out of the wash stand and chamber pot. She replaces towels and tidies the rooms, cleaning the fires as before. She also has to (after washing her hands, of course) make up the beds, beating the feather pillows.

Her work is not yet done: in the main passages of the house, she sweeps the floors and rugs and dusts furniture and on one day – usually Saturday – she will change all bed linen and collect all the dirty linen for the laundry maids.


The chef takes the planned menus upstairs to consult with the lady of the house, while all kitchen staff have lunch at 11am, which consists of only a drink. The kitchen maid prepares and cooks the servants’ dinner and nursery meals, while the chef prepares the family lunch and makes any jellies, creams, pastries ready for the family’s dinner. The scullery man washes up.

During this time, the footman would have two usual duties either he would stand in the entrance hall and answer the front door, or he would attend the family lunch room.

The junior housemaid, in addition to her daily cleaning, ‘turns out’ each main room according to a weekly or fortnightly rota. She moves furniture as necessary, brushes curtains, dusts picture frames (with cotton wool), ‘rubs’ fine furniture and wood floors.

The chef sends up the family lunch, while the kitchen maid sends dinner to the servants’ hall and steward’s room. The scullery man washes up.

During this time, the footman might run errands, either accompanying the family, or paying small bills or delivering visiting cards. If not required, the footman might have time to rest. The downstairs staff eat their dinner in this window, ahead of the busy afternoon.

All the kitchen staff have a few minutes’ rest in the kitchen, then the chef starts preparing and cooking the family dinner, assisted by the kitchen maid especially in attending the spit, cooking vegetables and boiling meat. The scullery man washes up, including the dripping pan and spit, which he rubs with sand and water, rinses, towel-dries, then dries thoroughly in front of the fire to prevent rust. He also disposes of waste, boils up unused offal, and takes out any pig food.

During the family lunch, the junior housemaid checks the fires in all the rooms and generally tidies, plumping cushions and removing dead petals from fresh flowers. She also helps the housekeeper to sort linen for repair, and sews and mends garments – including her own.

The footman continues on hall or room duty. Following the family tea, he collects the trays and returns the tea china to the stillroom. All staff have tea at 5pm, which is made and served by the stillroom maid – a female servant who works in the stillroom, where drinks and jams are made.

After his tea, the footman lights lamps, closes shutters and draws curtains in the sitting rooms. He assists the butler in laying the family dinner table: in keeping with tradition, the first footman carries the silver, the second the china, while the butler places the silver and glasses. If guests are expected, one footman stands on hall duty.

All the kitchen staff are needed to help send up the family dinner. The scullery man washes up (again), and then the kitchen maid and scullery man clean the kitchen and sort out the dirty linen.

At 8 o’clock, the footman sounds a gong or bell for dinner 15 minutes before it is served, and once again as the food is sent up. He carries the dinner from the kitchen and waits at the dinner table. Afterwards, he returns plates to kitchen, removes the cloth, dusts the table and puts out the lights. He then prepares and assists in serving tea and coffee in the drawing room or dining room, before washing the silver and glass used at dinner.

When the family dinner bell sounds, the junior housemaid waits a few minutes, then goes into ground floor rooms and tidies as before. During family dinner, she goes into the now empty upstairs and turns down the beds, checks the fires and wash stands and water, and empties ‘slops’.

The kitchen maid prepares and serves the servants’ supper, after which the kitchen staff have their own supper. The footman attends in the hall while any guests leave the house.

It’s the end of a long day. The footman serves the family supper, if required, and hands bedroom candlesticks to each member of the family as he or she wishes to retire. He assists the butler in shutting up the house and locking doors, while the kitchen maid checks the fires are safe and shuts up the kitchen. The junior housemaid takes up hot water bottles to the family and guest bedrooms and, finally, goes to bed.

Pamela Sambrook is the author of The Servants’ Story: Managing a Great Country House (Amberley Books, 2016)

This article was first published by History Extra in October 2018.

New workhouses

Following the 1834 Poor Law Act, 350 grim new workhouses were built, one within roughly every 20 miles. Earlier workhouses had housed the destitute disabled of the local parish, and their buildings were of a more humane design.

The new workhouses were designed to root out 'shirkers and scroungers'. They were intended as miserable places to live, with Spartan conditions and harsh work regimes. The able-bodied poor avoided them if they could, so disabled and mentally ill people were moved into them.

Watch the video: Life In The 19th Century England