The Good Old Days: Crime, Murder and Mayhem in Victorian London
During the 19th century the East End of London was peopled by a demimonde of criminals. The divide between the working, middle and upper classes with the resulting poverty, the customs, lives and language of the poorest in society were as alien to their privileged neighbours as the inhabitants of ‘darkest Africa’.
Before the Metropolitan Police Force was established in 1829, the only guardians of the law were watchmen and the parish constables who were, in the main, a corrupt bunch. Crime flourished on the streets. The docks were occupied by foreign sailors who had jumped ship. Alcohol was cheap and readily available and provided a brief respite from a dismal existence and drunkenness was then, as now, a major contributor to crime. In particular, the plight of women and children was dire; with little opportunity to improve their lot, thieving and prostitution seemed the only answer. For everyone, life was hard, brutal and short.
Written in an easy direct style, in this work the fog-bound streets, rat-infested slums, brothels and gin palaces of the East End are vividly brought to life with never a dull moment.