The Past & Present of London Slums

IMG_5846image.jpegThursdays Victorian London tour was the perfect end to an incredibly informative tour across London. It was amazing to see what used to be considered the worst slum in London, become a beautiful thriving community. As we walked through the community, the tour guide did an amazing job tying the novels we read by Dickens that reflected the structure of the area. The tour started right on the bank of the river Thames and our guide, Kim, explained how difficult it was to live in this area because of how much wider the river used to be. Being poor during the Victorian period was already difficult, but it was even more so when the river nearly washed their only safe haven, Southwark Cathedral, away. We then walked in the opposite direction of Borough Market to see what used to be slums, my imagination managed to run wild and I could see the tall run-down brick tenements that most definitely inspired A Child of the Jago. As we continued to walk through the rebuilt area, I could see the occasional old factory where the lucky few would get be able to obtain a job. And even if they managed to get work, they have to be very careful to not injure themselves or else they’d be out of work, especially seeing that a broken bone wouldn’t have been taken care of properly as it would with workers compensation today. Considering that labor laws were basically non existent at that time, if the main breadwinner temporarily or permanently lost their ability to work, the children will be sent to work as opposed to getting an education. I find it ridiculous and sad that as opposed to even considering sending their children to school, parents during the Victorian period would make their kids get jobs. And even if the kids managed to get an education, the school system was only meant to provide a school, but not the best teachers, classrooms and general learning environment. Something that also touched me was the small gravesite that held the bodies of people who were completely unknown. It hurts to think that these people and their families were so poor that they couldn’t even afford a coffin to put in sacred land, but I’m glad that everyday people have decided to make such a beautiful memorial for the unknown lives and to not tarnish the grounds they were buried in. What I loved the most was walking through one of the old neighborhoods that Dickens would observe and coming upon the bridge that inspired the murder scene of Nancy from her boyfriend Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist. It’s just amazing to me how just one poor and depraved, out of many, could inspire such a powerful story. In the end, London was an incredible experience and the historical walking tours were very informative and put all the novels we’ve read for the class in perfect context. Even though this is my first study abroad, and I hope to go on more, I’m positive that my trip here in London will be an experience I will never forget and will almost certainly go back to.image


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