[History by Numbers] The data gatherer
The life and work of a pioneer of sociology
One name which pops up quite frequently in the world of Victorian social history is that of Henry Mayhew (1812–1887), usually with reference to his monumental work London Labour and the London Poor. Its original three volumes, which began life as articles in the London Morning Chronicle in 1849–50 and then brought together in 1851, form one the most useful, fascinating and indeed moving accounts of poverty and street life in the capital ever compiled.
Year after year, Mayhew, his brother Augustus and other helpers pounded the streets of the metropolis in order to interview ordinary people divided into ‘those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work’, from mudlarks to market traders, prostitutes to poultry sellers. They weren’t always welcome, mind: in 1851, the Street Traders’ Protection Association was founded to keep him at bay!
Read on for Mayhew’s story, or here’s an earlier article on mudlarks and more…