Booth Classification – Description of class

Charles Booth  literally walked the streets of London. He was an English social researcher and reformer,and set out to discover the true extent of poverty in London. He published Life and Labour of the People in 1889, and a second volume,  Labour and Life of the People,  in 1891. His research showed 35% of people in the East End were living in abject poverty.A third expanded edition  Life and Labour of the People in London appeared 1902-3.

Booth mapped the entire city (colour-coded from black for poorest to red for richest) and classified the population into eight classes. All the research is available online, including the original notebooks. It’s useful in getting a picture of what sort of neighbourhood people lived in.

Booth Classification Description of class

A The lowest class which consists of some occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals. Their life is the life of savages, with vicissitudes of extreme hardship and their only luxury is drink

B Casual earnings, very poor. The labourers do not get as much as three days work a week, but it is doubtful if many could or would work full time for long together if they had the opportunity. Class B is not one in which men are born and live and die so much as a deposit of those who from mental, moral and physical reasons are incapable of better work

C Intermittent earning. 18s to 21s per week for a moderate family. The victims of competition and on them falls with particular severity the weight of recurrent depressions of trade. Labourers, poorer artisans and street sellers. This irregularity of employment may show itself in the week or in the year: stevedores and waterside porters may secure only one of two days’ work in a week, whereas labourers in the building trades may get only eight or nine months in a year.

D Small regular earnings. poor, regular earnings. Factory, dock, and warehouse labourers, carmen, messengers and porters. Of the whole section none can be said to rise above poverty, nor are many to be classed as very poor. As a general rule they have a hard struggle to make ends meet, but they are, as a body, decent steady men, paying their way and bringing up their children respectably.

E Regular standard earnings, 22s to 30s per week for regular work, fairly comfortable. As a rule the wives do not work, but the children do: the boys commonly following the father, the girls taking local trades or going out to service.

F Higher class labour and the best paid of the artisans. Earnings exceed 30s per week. Foremen are included, city warehousemen of the better class and first hand lightermen; they are usually paid for responsibility and are men of good character and much intelligence.

G Lower middle class. Shopkeepers and small employers, clerks and subordinate professional men. A hardworking sober, energetic class.

H Upper middle class, servant keeping class.

Class Description Map colour for streets

A The lowest class of occasional labourers, loafers and semi-criminals Black

B Casual earnings: “very poor” (below 18s. per week for a moderate family) Dark blue

C Intermittent earnings Together “the poor” between 18s. and 21s. per week for a moderate family Light blue Purple

D Small regular earnings

E Regular standard earnings – Above the line of poverty Pink

F Higher class labour – Fairly comfortable good ordinary earnings

G Lower middle class – Well-to-do middle class Red

H Upper middle class – Wealthy

Leave a Reply