Saturday, 24 March 2012
The Worst Jobs in Victorian London
Of course, a dustman emptied bins. But how often? What size and shape were the bins? What were they paid? What sort of people took the work? Who employed them? What did the Victorians put in their dustbins?
The more I thought about it, the more the questions multiplied, and the more I realised how little I knew. This may explain why what seemed a short project last year has taken quite so long.
In fact, it's not a enormous book. I would prefer to call it a monograph, in true Victorian fashion. It's probably about half the size of a decent paperback. But it is packed with information, not merely about dustmen, chimney sweeps and the rest, but about daily life, and what it was really like to live in the great metropolis. Did you know that 'mud' in Victorian streets was both black and largely horse dung? Likewise the 'coffee-coloured sirocco' of dust that swirled through the city in the summer months - a blend of pulverised horse dung and soot. Did you know that Victorian dust-yards (the great recycling grounds in which women toiled to sift through rubbish for recyclable material) were also inhabited by aggressive pigs? Can you imagine what it was like to hear a boy chimney-sweep scrambling up the flues in your bedroom wall?
I will stop with the questions. Bascially, researching the dirty side of Victorian London brings out a host of fascinating details, in areas often overlooked - the nitty gritty of Victorian life. If that appeals, do give it a try ... available on Kindle here in the UK, in the USA, and elsewhere. Don't forget, there are Kindle apps for phones, ipads, pcs, &c. And if you'd like an EPUB version, then please get in touch ... firstname.lastname@example.org