London Program: From Industrial City to Financial Center

Autumn 2016-2017


Elaine Hadley

Over the last two centuries, London has undergone two “revolutions,” the industrial revolution and the financialization revolution, both of which have had significant impacts on the built landscape and residential patterns of its neighborhoods. In the nineteenth century, London was not necessarily the locus of the industrial revolution that transformed the United Kingdom in uneven ways, but was nonetheless profoundly affected by it. Most notably, the size of London was one million in 1801 but increased to 6.7million by 1901, with associated impacts on the urban environment. And over the past three decades, in part through intentional interventions by national and city government, London has become a major world financial center, arguably becoming one of the “global cities” that the sociologist Saskia Sassen has described. This, too, has ushered in significant changes in the lived textures of London, altering the horizons of the City of London and the East End in particular. With these two events as frame, we will explore a variety of literary texts that concentrate on specific regions, neighborhoods, and even streets that have registered these forces in detectable ways. We will explore, in particular, the concept of gentrification, consider its efficacy as an explanatory device, even as we remain primarily dedicated to thinking about how literary works seek to depict these large-scale transformations. Some of the texts we might read are Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, George Gissing’s The Netherworld, Mike Leigh’s High Hopes, John Lanchester’s Capital, among other supporting texts (Sassen, the poverty maps of Michael Booth). Our study will be supported by guided walks through some of the more notable neighborhoods touched by the effects of industrialization and financialization. (B, G, H)