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parsed(2024-02-20) - pubdate: 02/24
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pub date: 1708408800
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Vagabonds

Life on the Streets of Nineteenth-Century London

February 20, 2024 | Trade paperback
ISBN: 9781891011429
$24.95
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Description

London, 1857: A pair of teenage girls holding a sign that says "Fugitive Slaves" ask for money on the corner of Blackman Street. After a constable accosts them and charges them with begging, they end up in court, where national newspapers pick up their story. Are the girls truly escaped slaves from Kentucky? Or will the city's dystopian Mendicity Society catch them in a lie, exposing them as born-and-raised Londoners and endangering their safety?

With its many accounts of people like these who lived and made their living on the streets, Vagabonds forms a moving picture of London's most compelling period (1780?1870). Piecing together contemporary sources such as newspaper articles, letters, and journal entries, historian Oskar Jensen follows the harrowing, hopeful journeys of the city's poor: children, immigrants, street performers, thieves, and sex workers, all diverse in gender, ethnicity, ability, and origin. For the first time, their own voices give us a radical new perspective on this moment in history, with its deep inequality that bears an astonishing resemblance to our own era's divides.

About this Author

ISBN: 9781891011429
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 336
Publisher: The Experiment
Published: 2024-02-20

Reviews

"Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2023
A Times (UK) Book of the Year


"A buoyant account without the upper-class condescension. . . . Jensen's vivid and crisp recreations of scenes plucked from his archival research reveal his subjects' canniness and solidarity. Readers will love this."

"A jostling chorus of distinct and previously unheard voices from the streets of Victorian London."

"Evocative, personal and moving. This book uses first-hand accounts to evoke the streets of 19th-century London. Richly woven with the voices of the city's poorest and most resilient residents."

"Impoverished nineteenth-century Londoners tend to come to us in the form of caricature or literature; this engaging history seeks to allow them to speak for themselves. Jensen delves into contemporary memoirs, trial proceedings, periodicals, and other sources to capture an ?astonishingly eloquent collective.'"

"Jensen gives these past lives a monument, a dignity and recognition they deserve . . . Jensen is the real deal; I've never encountered a historian quite like him . . . For two exquisite days, this book was my best friend."

"Rich in research . . . a telling account."

"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."

"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."

"A vigorous and necessary account made timely by the widening chasm between obscene wealth and dire poverty in our contemporary metropolis."

"The stories . . . make for fascinating and sometimes disturbing reading. Jensen weaves them together into a tapestry of pain and misfortune."

"Social history as it should be: fascinating, well-written, passionate, revelatory, and deeply humane. Terrific."

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

"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."

"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."

"Warm, vertiginously wide-ranging, and eloquent all at once, with the breadth and intensity of an academic study but the light touch of a skilled, sympathetic writer who lets every character in it speak for themselves."

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