Life on the Streets of Nineteenth-century London – by BBC New Generation Thinker

Oskar Jensen author

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Duckworth Books

Published: 16th Feb '23



Available, normally delivered within 3-6 days.

Compelling, moving and unexpected portraits of London’s poor from a rising star British historian – the Dickensian city brought to real and vivid life.


Compelling, moving and unexpected portraits of London's poor from a rising star British historian - the Dickensian city brought to real and vivid life.

Until now, our view of bustling late Georgian and Victorian London has been filtered through its great chroniclers, who did not themselves come from poverty – Dickens, Mayhew, Gustave Doré. Their visions were dazzling in their way, censorious, often theatrical. Now, for the first time, this innovative social history brilliantly – and radically – shows us the city’s most compelling period (1780–1870) at street level.

From beggars and thieves to musicians and missionaries, porters and hawkers to sex workers and street criers, Jensen unites a breadth of original research and first-hand accounts and testimonies to tell their stories in their own words. What emerges is a buzzing, cosmopolitan world of the working classes, diverse in gender, ethnicity, origin, ability and occupation – a world that challenges and fascinates us still.

'Vagabonds is a collection of exquisite stories... Open the cover and a beguiling crowd of characters run amok... Jensen gives these past lives a monument, a dignity and recognition they deserve. For a brief moment, in the pages of this extraordinary book, they are London and London is them... Jensen is the real deal; I’ve never encountered a historian quite like him’

-- Gerard de Groot, The Times

'Oskar Jensen’s fascinating, delightfully readable book about nineteenth-century street life is animated by a formidable passion for recovering the stories of some of metropolitan London’s poorest, most precarious, but also most creative people, a passion that is all too rare in accounts of the period... Rescuing these diverse individuals from both the condescension of their contemporaries and the silence of so many historians since, Vagabonds narrates their lives with a sympathy and sensitivity that is often moving – not least because they speak obliquely but powerfully to urban life in our own troubled and unsettled times'

-- Matthew Beaumont, Professor of English, UCL, and author of 'Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London'

'A very readable and historically well researched picture of the nineteenth-century poor'

-- Gareth Stedman Jones, Professor of the History of Ideas, Queen Mary University of London, and author of 'Outcast London'

'Not only a notable accumulation, from original sources, of the horrors of survival on the streets of nineteenth-century London, but a devastating exposure of pseudo-charity as a form of coercive policing. A vigorous and necessary account made timely by the widening chasm between obscene wealth and dire poverty in our contemporary metropolis'

-- Iain Sinclair, author of 'The Last London'

'Oskar Jensen's Vagabonds is an elegantly-written and vivid account of the people that lived and worked in Georgian and Victorian London. Jensen doesn't just present these hitherto marginalised figures on the page; like a delightful sorcerer, he brings them back to life'

-- Tomiwa Owolade, award-winning author of 'This is Not America'

‘Oskar Jensen has coaxed out of the archives a vast range of original voices of the street poor of London. With great sensitivity and scholarly rigour, he ensures that, once again, we hear the lived experiences of those who lived and died on the margins of metropolitan life’

-- Sarah Wise, author of 'The Blackest Streets' and 'Inconvenient People'

'Compellingly written, utterly captivating... Jensen’s book is stuffed to bursting with original voices and sources alongside his well-crafted expert analysis… every page of Vagabonds rings with the thrum and bass of a city that saw itself as the centre of the world'

-- Fern Riddell, BBC History magazine

‘Rich in research… a telling account’

-- Martin Chilton, Independent (Books of the Mo

ISBN: 9780715654958

Dimensions: unknown

Weight: unknown

352 pages