Thursday, 25 February 2010

A Hundred Years Hence, Past

Victorian futurology always fascinates me. Just came across a great article from the popular magazine, the Leisure Hour, written in 1857, forseeing 'London: A Hundred Years Hence'.

Like many predictions about the future, it really dwells on the pre-occupations of the time. Hence, in London topography, the author foresees the Embankment (built within ten years of the article), the spread of London to "Kew and Hammersmith ... Lewisham and Blackheath ... Woolwich and Blackwall" (happened within the next few decades) and the widening of the Strand (achieved with the Aldwych developments in 1900).

The general tone of the article is utopian - improvements in technology and physical conditions lead to diminished crime and less class difference. But there's also a bit of technological prediction - based on the telegraph - which, as often the case with the telegraph, foreshadows the internet:

"I observed that from each of these district shops innumerable electric wires branched off in all directions, communicating with several houses in the district to which it belonged. Thus, no sooner did a house-keeper stand in need of any article than she could despatch the order instantaneously along the wire, and receive the goods by the very first railway carriage that happened to pass the store. Thus, she saved her time, and she lost no money, because all chaffering and cheapening, and that fencing between buyer and seller, which was once deemed a pleasure, had been long voted a disgraceful, demoralizing nuisance, and was done away with. The electric wires ran along the fronts of the houses near the upper stories, crossing the streets at an elevation at which they were scarcely visible from below; and I noticed that the dwellings of friends, kindred, and intimates were thus banded together, not only throughout the whole vast city, but even far out into the provinces, and, in cases where the parties were wealthy, to the uttermost limits of the realm. "
Read the full article here.

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