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The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum

Author Sarah Wise dicusses her about like in the notorious Old Nichol slum

Police would not patrol there, even in daylight; no stranger would chance their arm there; it was a nest of cosh-carriers and prostitutes. The Old Nichol slum in Shoreditch – today’s Boundary Estate - has had a terrible press over the past 150 years or so. But did it deserve it? Historian Sarah Wise has undertaken close examination of the surviving documentation - memoirs, police and court records, parliamentary papers, the archives of the London County Council and Charles Booth’s notebooks – which allows us to piece together a much more complex picture of life in the Nichol at the end of the 19th century. And in the process, the Nichol legend dies a death. Come and hear Sarah in conversation with Michelle Johansen.

"Sarah Wise is too clever and considered a historian simply to give us a lurid, one-dimensional Victorian melodrama. Through painstaking archival work and readable empathetic prose, she has instead sought to evoke the texture of life here” – Sinclair McKay, Daily Telegraph

Sarah Wise is the author of The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum (Bodley Head, 2008) and of The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave-Robbery in 1830s London (Jonathan Cape, 2004). She reviews for the Daily Telegraph and The Literary Review.

Michelle Johansen is an historian and researcher specialising in 19th and 20th century London. She is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Raphael Samuel History Centre.


Dr Sarah Wise | talks


Date and Time:

18 November 2008 at 7:30 pm


1 hour



Bishopsgate Institute
230 Bishopsgate
020 7392 9200

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£5, concs £3; advance booking required

Available from:

Call 020 7392 9220 between 9.30am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Additional Information:

Bishopsgate Institute is two minutes walk from Liverpool Street station.

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