5. Most middle-class Londoners believed the residents of the city’s slums were to blame for their own misfortune.
For much of the 19th century, middle and upper-class Londoners could simply pretend slums didn’t exist at all. The âtwo Londons’ rarely, if ever met. Indeed, a well-to-do Londoner would have had no reason to venture into a slum – even the poor, desperate prostitutes usually went into the main city to try and find clients. Indeed, for decades, the East End of the British capital was widely referred to as âdarkest London’. It was a completely unknown world, a terra incognita, for ârespectable’ Londoners, and they were happy for it to remain that way.
Then, when it became impossible to deny the existence of the slums, or question how horrible the living conditions really were, many well-off Victorians resorted to blaming the poor for the state of their housing. In popular newspapers and journals, the poor were dismissed as lazy and decadent, with the terrible conditions of the slums of their own choosing. It was only in the mid-1850s that campaigners started convincing the public that slums were the result of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion rather than the result of the âsinfulness’ of their occupants.