Capital City



This chapter marks the transition to Victorian London and lays the sociohistorical foundations for the discussion of fiction and painting in subsequent chapters. It examines the wholesale transformations wrought by capitalism: through the rail and road developments and the speculative housing market which reshaped the structure and hence the social meanings of the metropolis; through the casual labour market and its attendant problems of poverty and social unrest; and through the City’s consolidation as the world’s leading financial centre. The first two sections describe spatial and social mobility and the disorientation and class tensions to which these migrations contributed. The following section traces the evolution of middle-class perceptions of the working classes, and of the fantasies which they projected onto the ‘residuum’ of city savages. The chapter concludes by analysing the moral dilemmas posed by the gulf between rich and poor, and efforts to understand the human consequences of laissez-fairecapitalism.


Capital City Moral Panic Social Body Vital Energy Overcrowd Housing 
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© Alan David Robinson 2004

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