At a time when Henry Mayhew ventured like an explorer into the ‘darkest’ parts of London to publish London Labour and the London Poor (1851), social investigators such as Jacob A. Riis and Helen Campbell did the same for New York city. And just as French policemen such as Vidocqu published their recollections of their time in the police—a book which inspired the characters of Jean Valjean and Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables—so too did one Scottish-American detective, named George McWatters, publish his memoir of policing.
On the Democracy of the United States and the Bourgeoisie of France (1838) | G. W. M. Reynolds
The fact is, that America is better understood by Europeans than by its own citizens. While she is occupied in self-contemplation and self-admiration—a state of quiescent beatitude originated by amour-propre—we are in a situation which enables us to judge of her with impartiality and calmness.
The Glorious Fourth of July | Anonymous
This poem from 1849 celebrates American Independence on the 4 July 1776. It was originally published in the Democratic Review
Afar from Home: A Poem of the Gold Rush | W. D.
This poem was written by a person known only as “W.D.” and published in the London Journal in 1860, which was then edited by Pierce Egan the Younger (1814–80). The poem might refer to the Gold Rushes of the mid-1800s, when explorers seeking to get rich quickly moved to the USA and Canada hoping to strike gold.
Man from 1818 Predicts USA of the Future | Stephen Basdeo
“I venture to predict the following improvements: Improvements which time may verify when the hand that now writes them, has long mouldered in the clammy soil.”
A Student’s Diary of the Spanish Flu (1918) | Anonymous
In 1918, as the Spanish flu ravaged the world, one student at Montana State College. One of the students decided to keep a diary chronicling student life during the pandemic and also his own experiences while he was sick with the flu.
Lines Written by a New York Homeless Woman
A thin shawl was drawn over her shoulders; her dress was ragged and worn, her face deathly pale…In her pocket was found the remnant of the crust, and a copy of verses printed on red paper.
How Victorians Fell in Love with American Rebels
The British people and the American people did not always like each other. The Americans had broken away from the empire in 1783 and relations remained frosty for over a century. But in the late Victorian era, British writers’ feelings about Americans began to change.
The Mysteries of New York (1848) | Stephen Basdeo
In the Victorian era, New York was a large industrial city with ‘dark Satanic mills’ in which the poor and the rich lived “cheek by jowl”; paupers lived a hand-to-mouth existence and for many, a life of crime as part of an organised criminal gang.
Carlos Rodriguez gives a brief history and analysis of Mexican cartels from the 1980s onwards.
New York’s 19th-Century Underclass: The Work of Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914) | Stephen Basdeo
Stephen Basdeo takes a look at the life of one of New York’s pioneering social reformers, Jacob A. Riis.