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19th-Century London’s Extreme Wealth and Poverty, Mapped

Charles Booth’s famous maps of Victorian London offer a chance to reflect on how the city has changed—and how it hasn’t.
A map showing the considerable wealth, and small pockets of poverty in the streets north of London's Hyde Park.
A map showing the considerable wealth, and small pockets of poverty in the streets north of London's Hyde Park.Charles Booth Archive, courtesy of London School of Economics

Flicking through the new edition of Charles Booth’s London Poverty Maps, contemporary Londoners might be struck with a feeling of déjà vu.

The book is a reprint of a gargantuan study conducted between 1889 and 1903 by Victorian social reformer Charles Booth, whose incredibly detailed maps (fully viewable online here) catalog exactly how rich or poor London was—street by street, and sometimes even house by house. Each row of houses in the landmark study is categorized in color grades ranging from “wealthy” all the way down to “lowest class: vicious, semi-criminal.” The maps offer an incredible document of late Victorian London.