Essay on Overcrowding and Urban Planning in Victorian London

Victorian London in Charles Dickens era was a city suffering under the weight of the masses of people that lived there. In Dickens’ time, London was the largest city in the world, both due to its population increase and the urban sprawl caused by influx of so many people. There were nearly 4 million inhabitants of the ‘Great City’ at the height of the Victorian age. This number was an increase of nearly three million people over a period of approximately 30 years, there were many problems associated with such explosive growth, problems which were most recognizable during Charles Dickens lifetime.

The migration from rural settings to an urban setting was common throughout the country but mainly in London, which was prompted by the lack of work in rural areas, and the coming of the industrial age. People flocked to the cities with their farm animals (hence the term pigsty) and children in tow, and lived (animals too) upon each other in small rooms within tenements. The conditions were overcrowded and horrendous. As a direct result of the overcrowding slums and disease were rampant and afflicted only the poor who lived under such conditions. In comparison to other European cities of the day, however, the rate of people dying from disease was equal with other large metropolitan areas in Europe. The large migration of people to the city, disease, and the lack of a proper infrastructure to contend with masses, were all unique problems for the city and the city governments. Clearly some drastic measures were required to remedy the sanitation and overcrowding issues.

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Some problems urban planners were faced with were sanitation, crime, overcrowding, and transportation. They believed alternatives to solving these issues were to buil…

… England. 1982. Ed. by David Cannadine and David Reeder.H. J. Dyos and Michael Wolff, ed. The Victorian City, Images and Realities. 2 Volumes. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London and Boston. 1973. Steven Marcus. Reading the Illegible.Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. 1848. London: Penguin Classics, 1985.Gaskell, Elizabeth. Mary Barton. 1848. London: Penguin Classics, 1985.Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. London: The Unique City. The M.I.T.Press, Cambridge. 1934.Olsen, Donald J. The City as a Work of Art: London, Paris,Vienna. Yale University Press. New Haven. 1986.

Footnotes1. PP, 1837-8, xvi, Second Report, SC (HC) on Metropolis Improvements, iii, as quoted by Dyos.2. Ibid., viii.3. 1845. Second Report, RC on Metropolis Improvements QQ 31, 40, as quoted by Dyos.4. Select Committee (SC) report on Metropolis Improvements, QQ 8,20, as quoted by Dyos.


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