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Dickens’s London, what’s changed since the 19th century?

Katherine Aitchison20 March 2012

This year marks 200 years since the birth of Charles Dickens. So, in the time since he was writing, how much has London really changed?

This was the topic up for discussion at a panel debate hosted by the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction  on 15 March.

The panel consisted of UCL Quain Professor of English, Rosemary Ashton; UCL Emeritus Professor of Climate Modelling, Julian Hunt and Professor Jerry White (Birkbeck) who has written a number of books describing London through the ages. Each of the panel had their own take on Dickens’s work and how it relates to the changing face of London in the years since his birth.

Professor Ashton kicked off the evening by discussing the London of the 19th century and the relationship between Dickens and Edwin Chadwick (a social reformer who placed huge emphasis on the importance of public health). As far as public health goes, it is clear that London has changed substantially since Dickens was writing; although the poverty he was so concerned about is still visible in some areas, the days of multiple families crowding into one room are long gone.

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