The Empty Hand: A Poor Life (English Edition)

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Sozialgeschichte

This book certainly isn’t a love story, it is simply a compilation of events which focus primarily on those from the labouring class, who assisted greatly in forming the backbone of the British Empire. Bonded by the same common cause, prosperity and a better life for kith and kin, many existed in the most unimaginable circumstances, yet were living cheek by jowl almost with the rich and wealthy in the same localities. This is where the two worlds would truly collide, the prosperity of the wealthiest cities in the world coming face to face with some of the most appalling slums in Europe. Within a minutes walk the Victorian pedestrian could encounter feelings of hope rapidly give way to emotions of overpowering despair. Today we generally associate the Victorians with a Christian work ethic, family values, religious scrutiny and institutional faith. However, it is also true that this description applies to some large segments of Victorian English society, particularly the middle class, which at the time was increasing both in number and power. Many members of that middle class aspired to join the higher ranks of the nobles, and felt that acting ‚properly‘ according to the conventions and values of the day, was an important step in that direction.
This book certainly isn’t a love story, it is simply a compilation of events which focus primarily on those from the labouring class, who assisted greatly in forming the backbone of the British Empire. Bonded by the same common cause, prosperity and a better life for kith and kin, many existed in the most unimaginable circumstances, yet were living cheek by jowl almost with the rich and wealthy in the same localities. This is where the two worlds would truly collide, the prosperity of the wealthiest cities in the world coming face to face with some of the most appalling slums in Europe. Within a minutes walk the Victorian pedestrian could encounter feelings of hope rapidly give way to emotions of overpowering despair. Today we generally associate the Victorians with a Christian work ethic, family values, religious scrutiny and institutional faith. However, it is also true that this description applies to some large segments of Victorian English society, particularly the middle class, which at the time was increasing both in number and power. Many members of that middle class aspired to join the higher ranks of the nobles, and felt that acting ‚properly‘ according to the conventions and values of the day, was an important step in that direction.
You will now learn of individuals from the lower, well trodden rungs of the social ladder, from a world of criminality and moral decline, where prostitution, petty crime and alcoholism were endemic. Some of the scenario’s are truly nightmarish and for these unfortunates there was no real safety net in which to fall, it was either the meagre offerings of a relieving officer or the oppressive regime playing out within the throbbing walls of a workhouse, where the stench of hopelessness hung permanently in the air. Many aspects of their daily lives are underlined, the contrasting attitudes of the Victorians are now open to scrutiny once again. Throughout the entire book I have worked around original newspaper reports and articles, adding in places, further information relevant to that particular subject, some are expanded upon extensively, to create depth, clarity and a broader understanding of the original topic. They are not in chronological order (apart from the legendary navvy) and in several chapters London features prominently, it was after all, the epi-centre of the British Empire.

Contents

Author’s preface
Chapter 1 Barrel scrapers
Chapter 2 Victorian drugs and alcohol
Chapter 3 Fallen women
Chapter 4 The remarkable miser
Chapter 5 The legendary navvy
Chapter 6 Somewhat surreal
Acknowledgements


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The Empty Hand: A Poor Life (English Edition)

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