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How Did They Do That?

The private world of the workers behind Britain’s Industrial Revolution

VICTORIAN SLUMS

In the late 18th century, the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution prompted migration from rural to urban areas, where newly established factories promised bountiful employment. Affordable housing for these new workers rapidly proliferated and rows of terraced houses became the norm. However, the lack of facilities, overcrowding and poor sanitation created a public health crisis on an unprecedented scale. These urban environments, seen by many as a symbol of Britain’s success as an industrial power, quickly became a breeding ground for diseases such as typhus and cholera, and exposed the stark class divisions in British society.

London: A Divided City

It is estimated that in 1700, London had a population of 600,000. One hundred years later, it had almost doubled to over a million. Prior to this period, the rich and poor had largely lived side-by-side, but as more crowded housing was built, the wealthy moved out of the city centre and settled in the newly established suburbs. After the exodus of the ‘respectable classes’, East London in particular gained a reputation for violence, crime, drunkenness and disease, and those who could afford to do so stayed well away.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

When we began thinking of how best to celebrate our 50th issue, we thought it would be great to look at the turning points in history, to pick which decisions had the greatest impact on the world. But as we started to come up with a list of key moments, it soon became clear that this was a herculean task; we were going to need some help. A few phone calls and emails later, we had assembled a panel of experts including some of the most respected and popular historians, writers and broadcasters in the land. We quickly realised it’s not possible to define the single biggest decision in history – how could anyone? – but the variety of responses we had illustrated the vast richness of history. So, from Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, to Decca Records choosing to pass on the Beatles, we present 50 decisions that, for better or worse, have shaped our world. Before I let you go, I’d like to thank all of our readers most sincerely for your support since we launched – here’s to the next 50 issues!