by Oskar Jensen
Here is popular social history at its finest and most accessible: Indelibly vivid accounts of Dickensian London’s street denizens reveal the true character of this place and time
British historian Oskar Jensen, an expert on the Georgian and Victorian periods, combs through hundreds of contemporary accounts to document the stories of London’s poor. What emerges is a buzzing world of the working classes, diverse in gender, ethnicity, ability, origin, and occupation.
There’s Susan Mosely, two years old and herself born into poverty, who is kidnapped by an older woman because beggars with small children are treated with more sympathy. There’s John James Bezer, seven-year-old son of a drunkard, elated to find a job as a street deliveryman—which requires him to work seventeen hours a day. And there’s Joseph Johnson, a Black ex-sailor most likely from the Caribbean, singing sea songs on the grass outside the Tower of London with a model ship balanced on his head, in a performance so captivating that it’s written about in several newspapers at the time.