Click here to skip to main content.
Discrete CollectionsPolitics, economics and social science collections
TitleBooth; Charles (1840-1916); shipowner and social commentator
Extentc500 volume and files, plus 73 maps (in total 11 shelves plus oversize items)
Admin Biographical HistoryCharles Booth was born in Liverpool on 30th March 1840, the son of Charles Booth and Emily Fletcher. Charles attended the Royal Institution School in Liverpool. In 1862, Charles joined his eldest brother Alfred establishing the firm was Alfred Booth and Company which specialised in shipping skins and leather, they set up offices in both Liverpool and New York. Booth campaigned unsuccessfully for the Liberal parliamentary candidate in the election of 1865. In 1866, he joined Joseph Chamberlain's Birmingham Education League. On 29 April 1871 Booth married Mary Macaulay, daughter of Charles Zachary Macaulay and Mary Potter, and niece of the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. In the early days of their marriage Booth was facing mental exhaustion from years of overwork. In 1875, they settled in London. Mary was an invaluable advisor in the business and an active contributor to Booth's survey into London life and labour. In 1884 Charles Booth assisted in the allocation of the Lord Mayor of London's Relief Fund, by analysing census returns. He later served on the official committee in charge of the 1891 census and make a number of recommendations for its improvement. In 1893 Booth served on the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor. In 1904 Booth was made a Privy Councillor and in 1907 he served with Beatrice Webb on the Royal Commission on the Poor Law. In 1908, many years after he first began writing and speaking about the need for state pensions to alleviate poverty amongst the elderly, the Liberal government passed the Old Age Pensions Act in 1908. Although Booth had argued for a universal old age pension rather than the means tested system which the act introduced, he was recognised by many as one of the progenitors of the pension. He was also made a fellow of the Royal Society and awarded honorary degrees by the Universities of Cambridge, Liverpool and Oxford. Early in 1912 Booth handed over the chairmanship of Alfred Booth and Company to his nephew, but in 1915 returned to work under wartime exigencies despite growing evidence of heart disease. On 23 November 1916 he died following a stroke, at his country home of Gracedieu in Thringstone, Leicestershire.
Booth's Survey of London Life and Labour
The first meeting to organise the inquiry into poverty in London was held on 17 April 1886: the work would last until 1903, resulting in the publication of three editions of the survey, the final edition of Life and Labour of the People in London (London: Macmillan, 1902-1903) running to seventeen volumes. The work would absorb both Charles and Mary Booth and employ a team of social investigators including, at various times, Beatrice Webb, Arthur Baxter, Clara Collet, David Schloss, George Duckworth, Hubert Llewllyn Smith, Jesse Argyle, and Ernest Aves.
There were three areas of investigation undertaken in the survey: poverty, industry and religious influences. The poverty series gathered information from School Board visitors about levels of poverty and types of occupation amongst families in the locality. The industry series investigated trades in London. Trades of interviewees include conventional trades such as tailors and wood workers and more unusual trades such as organ grinders and chorus girls. Statistics, graphs and charts were compiled from the considerable mass of data gathered by questionnaire, from employers of all types and industry. The religious survey includes reports of visits to churches and interviews with Church of England and Non-conformist ministers. The investigation also incorporates a description of the social and moral influences on Londoner's lives.
Custodial HistoryArchives contained in section D were found in the Rare Books Room in 1978, 1981 and 1984 but were probably deposited at the same time as the rest of the collection
DescriptionWorking papers of the Survey of 'Labour and Life of the People' and 'Life and Labour of the People in London' by Charles Booth 1886-1903 comprising the original survey notebooks and papers: interviews, questionnaires, statistics, reports and colour coded maps describing poverty.

The papers and the original survey notebooks reflect the three areas of investigation undertaken in the survey: poverty, industry and religious influences.

The poverty series interviewed School Board visitors about levels of poverty in households and streets. The survey also investigated trades of East London Poverty connected with poverty: tailoring; furniture and women's work.

The industry series comprises of interviews of employers, trade union leaders and workers for each trade and industry and questionnaires concerning rates of wages, numbers employed, details of trade unions and domestic (food, dress and circumstances etc) which were completed by employees and trade union officials. The following trades and industries are covered by the survey: building trade; wood workers; metal workers; precious metals, watches and instruments; sundry manufacturers printing and paper trades; textile trades; clothing trades; food and drink trades; dealers and clerks; transport and gardeners; labourers; public service and professional classes; domestic service. Case histories of the inmates of Bromley and Stepney workhouses during 1889 and people who received outdoor relief from the union were also transcribed.

The religious survey includes reports of visits to churches and over 1450 interviews with ministers of all denominations including Church of England, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish, Roman Catholic. Salvation Army officers and missionaries were also interviewed. The reports of the interviews contain contemporary printed material relating to the churches. Questionnaires were also completed as part of the survey. The investigation went beyond documenting religious influences and incorporates a description of the social and moral influences on Londoner's lives. The social investigators accompanied police around their beats in London in order to update the existing street-level information for the Maps Descriptive of London Poverty 1898-1899. The reports of these walks, known as the `police notebooks', are included in the religious influences series.

The Maps Descriptive of London Poverty 1898-1899 are probably the most well known documents which survive from the survey. The Maps Descriptive of London Poverty 1898-1899 are twelve sheets colour coded by social class and poverty from black [semi-vicious] to yellow [middle and upper class, well-to-do]. The maps cover an area of London from Hammersmith in the west, to Greenwich in the east, and from Hampstead in the north to Clapham in the south. The working and printed copies of the maps are contained within the archive.

Other papers include an inventory undertaken in 1925 by T. M. Booth, son of Charles Booth; additional manuscripts concerning the survey: circulars, statistics and booklets collected during the survey.

[For research notes relating to bootmakers by David Frederick Schloss, which are likely to have been part of the Booth inquiry, see COLL MISC 0762/4.]
Publication Note'The Streets of London: The Booth Notebooks - South East', Deptford Publishing. Contains transcripts from the police notebooks.
Access StatusOpen
Copyright TypeOther
    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2024