25 Dec 2009 – from Matthew

I was thrilled when I saw this in the catalogue – I’ve heard about it but never seen a copy before.  So it went straight on my wishlist and I bought it for myself from Matthew on my Autumn trip to the Shop.

I won’t say I *enjoyed* this as it’s not a book to enjoy as such, being a description of the pretty awful living conditions experienced by the honest, hardworking but underpaid and overburdened working classes just before the First World War.  But I love sociology books, I love longitudinal studies, and I’ve read some of the books that followed this ("Four Years Old In The Urban Environment" and the more modern books about living on minimum wage by Polly Toynbee and Barbara Ehrenreich) so this was exciting to find both from a sociological and a historical point of view.  Some of the comments about the women are a little naive but should be read as a product of their time, and this is such an important work, one of the first systematic examinations of the lot of people who should be able to afford to raise a family but struggle.  The book ends with a call to arms to adopt a minimum wage and to stop assuming people can live in a "scientific" way on such a small wage.  It’s detailed, moving and I think still relevant today.