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Victorian Underworld

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  84 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Beneath the respectable surface of Victorian society lay a criminal world as diverse, as turbulent, and at times as vicious as any that has existed. Policemen could only stand in awe of the occupations and illegal practices which grew up.

Kellow Chesney begins his book by taking a general look at the society and its penal methods. Then, ranging over the whole spectrum of un
Paperback, 470 pages
Published 1976 by Penguin (first published 1970)
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May 18, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
Very interesting book, belonging on the same shelf as Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier or Down and Out in Paris and London. Basically like time-traveling back to the 1840s or 1850s for a tour of the seediest, grimiest, most dangerous urban and rural English environments, and spending time getting to know the local criminals, charlatans, and ne'er-do wells about the particulars of their lives.

Looking at the Table of Contents, we see chapters devoted to rookeries (urban ghettos where the police wer
Feb 06, 2013 Alison rated it really liked it
I came to this looking for a London "Low Life," and it kind of is. However, Kellow Chesney is not Luc Sante. Or to put another way, if Luc Sante is your cool, history obsessed neighbor who will gladly pour your a whiskey and tell you about how many gang murders happened in your tenement corridor in 1890, Kellow Chesney would probably get the vapors if he passed a woman in provocative clothing coming out of an H&M yesterday. And that's part of the charm of his book. It takes a special kind of ...more
Apr 16, 2009 Chloe marked it as to-read
Recommended to Chloe by: William Gibson

After reading yesterday's post about the role that Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor played in the birth of steampunk, William Gibson wrote in to add:

"I've never actually read Mayhew, but feel I've long had him, through brilliant osmosis, with Kellow Chesney's Victorian Underworld, which is easily one of my favorite books ever. People assume, when I tell them that, that Chesney would mainly have influenced The Difference Engine, but actually this was very cons
Cheyenne Audrey
Mar 17, 2017 Cheyenne Audrey rated it really liked it
When I ordered this book I didn't expect it to be nonfiction, for some reason, but I'm glad it is. I got to learn so much about my favorite time period, and even if it was a crappy life, I wish I could live through it. To me there is something so magical about this century and I wish some of the things of this time, were still present today.
Eric Oppen
Nov 08, 2015 Eric Oppen rated it really liked it
It was a fun read, not as complete as the other book of the same title, but well worth it as a look at the side of the Victorian world we don't normally think about. Michael Crichton apparently mined it pretty heavily for his The Great Train Robbery.

Persons of delicate sensibilities, be warned: a lot of what went on in Victorian slums was not nice and not very PC. A very popular sport was one where rats were set loose and then a dog was set on them; the more rats killed, the higher the dog score
Apr 06, 2008 Dfordoom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
For those who think crime is a modern problem and that modern society is more violent and more crime-ridden than earlier societies this book will come as a revelation. It’s not only the scale of crime in Victorian times that is shocking, the extent of the suffering and the horror of life in that period for such a large proportion of the population is almost beyond belief. The most fascinating thing about the book is the depiction of the various underworld sub-cultures – each type of crime had it ...more
Mar 03, 2012 Jur rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
een lekkere tweedehands Penguinpaperback uit 1970, jawel, met een blauwe rug! Prachtig hoofdstuk over de connecties tussen de onderwereld en de sport in het midden van de 19e eeuw. Illegale bokswedstrijden met 10.000 bezoekers en intimidatie van de scheidsrechters, vergeven paardenracewedstrijden, hanengevechten.
G Lott
Jul 25, 2014 G Lott rated it it was amazing
England in the late 19th century is brought to light in this very interesting and revealing book The book shows the origines of many phrases and words used today. More importantly it discusses the dirty work done in order to survive.

Oct 15, 2012 Joseph rated it really liked it
Unusual homophobia appears from nowhere from the author in the 'Prostitution' chapter, hilarious scribbling in pencil from a disgusted student reacting to Chesney's views was very entertaining.

Despite being very helpful and illuminating, that end left me with an uneasy feeling about it.
Hannah Goff
Dec 16, 2014 Hannah Goff rated it it was amazing
Was a great help on my paper and a really interesting read. I may have to read it again when I am not struggling under a deadline. But definitely one of the more interesting books I have read for a paper.
Sep 17, 2011 Steph added it
Remember the musical "Oliver!" and those poor urchins pick-pocketing to eke out a living on London's harsh streets?

That was pretty much CAKE compared to how life actually worked for the poor then.

Fascinating, horrifying, intriguing stuff.

More later when I'm finished.
Jan 11, 2014 Alaric rated it it was amazing
Aug 19, 2012 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A interesting book if one is likes the way people lived and survived in poverty during the victorian era
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Oct 20, 2011
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Jul 07, 2012
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Dec 13, 2013
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