Part 1: Attitudes towards the poor
In groups, examine one of the following quotations. Each of these quotations was written in Victorian times about the lives of the poor.
Consider the following questions then choose a spokesperson to share your findings with the rest of the group.
• Does the author have a generally positive or negative view of the poor?
• Do they show any sympathy?
• Who or what do they blame for poverty?
• Do they think that the government should do anything to help poor people?
‘“Heaven helps those who help themselves” … Whatever is done for men or classes, to a certain extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves.’
Samuel Smiles, Self-Help (1859)
‘The condition of a class of people whose misery, ignorance, and vice, amidst all the immense wealth and great knowledge of “the first city in the world”, is, to say the very least, a national disgrace to us’
Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor (1851)
‘Darkest England may be described as consisting broadly of three circles, one within the other. The outer and widest circle is inhabited by the starving and homeless, but honest Poor. The second by those who live in Vice; and the third and innermost region at the centre is people by those who exist by Crime … the borders of this great lost land are not sharply defined. They are continually expanding and contracting … the death of a breadwinner, a long illness, a failure in the city, or any one of a thousand other causes which might be named, will bring within the first circle those who at present imagine themselves free from all danger of actual want.’
William Booth, In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890)
‘Their life is the life of savages, with vicissitudes of extreme hardship and their only luxury is drink.’
Charles Booth, The Maps Descriptive of London Poverty, Inquiry into Life and Labour in London (1886-1903)