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The 19th Century Underworld (Paperback)

Crime, Controversy and Corruption

British History True Crime P&S History Social History Victorian Era 19th Century

By Stephen Carver
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 209
ISBN: 9781526751676
Published: 1st May 2019

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Underworld n. 1. the part of society comprising those who live by organised crime and immorality. 2. the mythical abode of the dead under the earth.

Take a walk on the dark side of the street in this unique exploration of the fears and desires at the heart of the British Empire, from the Regency dandy’s playground to the grim and gothic labyrinths of the Victorian city. Enter a world of gin spinners, sneaksmen and Covent Garden nuns, where bare-knuckled boxers slog it out for dozens of rounds, children are worth more dead than alive, and the Thames holds more bodies than the Ganges. This is the Modern Babylon, a place of brutal poverty, violent crime, strong drink, pornography and prostitution; of low neighbourhoods and crooked houses with windows out like broken teeth, wraithlike urchins with haunted eyes, desperate, ruthless and vicious men, and the broken remnants of once fine girls: a grey, bleak, infernal place, where gaslights fail to pierce the pestilential fog, and coppers travel in pairs, if they venture there at all.

Combining the accessibility of a popular history with original research, this book brings the denizens of this vanished world once more to life, along with the voices of those who sought to exploit, imprison or save them, or to simply report back from this alien landscape that both fascinated and appalled: the politicians, the reformers, the journalists and, above all, the storytellers, from literary novelists to purveyors of penny dreadfuls. Welcome to the 19th century underworld…

Some of the events Carver recounts are unpleasant, but because he is a skilled writer he manifests a certain sensitivity in dealing with the more horrid aspects–child murders, for instance, are dealt with maturely and soberly. So this is not some rather rubbish true crime book–which always seem to be about ogling the foul deeds committed by brutes–but a well-written book which entertains where possible but treats the source material and subject (and the reader) with respect. I enjoyed all of the chapters... So, for a modestly priced volume which will soon be available in paperback as well, you too can, with Carver, navigate the seedy underworld of nineteenth-century London which could be both fun and frightening!

Read the full review here

Geste of Robin Hood

Competition winner announced

True Crime Library Bulletin 516

This Stephen Carver’s book lists the lid on the real history of the nineteenth century’s criminal fraternity and sorority. Popular history at its entertaining best.

Read the full review here

Books Monthly

There is source material here for any number of penny dreadful tales - an absolutely ripping, gripping read.

Jane Austen's Regency World, March/April 2019 - reviewed by by Joceline Bury.

As featured in competition

True Crime Library, Bulletin 506/7

Stephen Carver takes part in 'Meet The Author' feature

WDYTYA? February 2019

Article: Henry Spencer Ashbee: the Southwark local who amassed 'world's largest collection' of pornography as featured by

Southwark News, 20th December 2018 (print) - words by Josh Salisbury

There is plenty for everyone, regardless of what aspect of the 19th century underworld they are interested in; Carver’s interest in, and knowledge of, the literature is evident throughout, and he takes the reader on a rapid walk through the nooks and crannies of 19th century life, where you’re never quite sure of what lurks around the corner, but whatever it is, it is bound to be darkly fascinating.

See full review here

Nell Darby, Criminal Historian

Article: Henry Spencer-Ashbee: The Southwark local who amassed ‘The World’s Largest Collection of Porn’ as featured by

Southwark News, 19th December 2018 (online) - words by Josh Salisbury

Article: Author delves in to the dark past of city’s infamous murderer

Norwich Evening News, 8th December 2018 - words by Derek James
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