Police notebooks

Between 1886 and 1903, Charles Booth carried out his “Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London”. This was one of several surveys which were undertaken during the 19th century and much of the material has survived. A series of maps was produced which indicate the level of poverty in London at the time. These have been digitised and are available online where you can Search the Map by modern street names, or parishes and landmarks in 1898.

In order to update the street level information for the “Maps Descriptive of London Poverty  1898-1899”, social investigators accompanied police around on their beats in London.

The walks were recorded in a series of notebooks which can be accessed through The Charles Booth Online Archive and cover 46 districts of London. (The City is not included).

As well being able to give the investigators local knowledge of the area and the inhabitants, the policemen gave protection to the investigators. The handwritten reports, accompanied by sketch maps of the route, paint a vivid picture of the area and often give a physical description of the policeman. The investigators describe the type of housing, the occupations of the inhabitants and often go further, commenting on the relationship between the publicans and the police as well the extent of crime and drunkenness amiongst the men, women and children and descriptions of ethnic communities.

The contents of the notebooks have also been gathered together in a series of themed snapshots of life in London at the time.


© Caroline 2008

Charles Booth and the survey into life and labour in London (1886-1903)