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Monday, 14 November 2011

Tight Spaces (Thomas Annan: The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow)

Close No 28 Saltmarket, 1868

Plate 15: Close, No. 28 Saltmarket: photo by Thomas Annan, 1868, from The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, 1871 (British Library)

I have seen human degradation in some of its worst phases, both in England and abroad, but I can advisedly say, that I did not believe, until I visited the wynds of Glasgow, that so large an amount of filth, crime, misery, and disease existed in one spot in any civilised country. The wynds consist of long lanes, so narrow that a cart could with difficulty pass along them; out of these open the 'closes', which are courts about fifteen or twenty feet square, round which the houses, mostly three or four storeys high, are built; the centre of the court is the dunghill, which probably is the most lucrative part of the estate to the laird in most instances, and which it would consequently be esteemed an invasion of the rights of property to remove. In the lower lodging houses, ten, twelve, or sometimes twenty persons, of both sexes and all ages, sleep promiscuously on the floor in different degrees of nakedness. These places are generally, as regards dirt, damp, and decay, such as no person of common humanity would stable his horse in.

Friedrich Engels: from Conditions of the Working Class in England, 1844-1845

Plate 18 of Closes and Streets: Bystanders observe Annan at work

Plate 18: Close, No. 29 Gallowgate. Bystanders observe Annan as he captures a shadowed alley: photo by Thomas Annan, 1868, from The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, 1871 (Glasgow University Library)

File:Slum in Glasgow, 1871.jpg

Plate 10: Close, No. 101 High Street. Damp trousers hang motionless while dry clothes are moved by a breeze during an exposure
photo by Thomas Annan, 1868, from The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, 1871 (Glasgow University Library)

Image of plate 8 of Closes and Streets: Shows struts being used to support an unsafe building

Plate 8: Close, No. 83 High Street. A tenement is supported by struts from a house built in a back court: photo by Thomas Annan, 1868, from The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, 1871 (Glasgow University Library)

Image of plate 7 of Closes and Streets: Shows washing hanging above a back court

Plate 7: Close, No. 75 High Street. Washing was hung to dry in back courts which also contained gutters for sewage: photo by Thomas Annan, 1868, from The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, 1871 (Glasgow University Library)


Ed Baker said...

not too much different than 1950's Baltimore, or NYC or ChiTown or Pittsburg or Detroit or LA ...

only difference from then to now:

our raw sewage is hidden underground

same clouds of pollution/waste in the air for us to suck-up & feed to the Infection ....

let us now ALL as a "one voice fits all" prEy on "God"

( Hell... if I keep this attitude up NoBoddhi will buy Stone Girl much less She Intrudes ....

might as well "eat worms"

TC said...

Ed, worms are nutritious.

As to the "not much different," sorry to beg to differ on the history here. Puh-leeze don't tell me they dumped sewage out the windows in even the most squalid of American big towns. And by the way, the Glasgow weather has to beat all the dumps on your list for sheer nonstop wretchedness. That can't have helped the picture much. Engels, after all, had seen a few serious slums -- Manchester & c. But this was the worst.

In 1866 the Glasgow city officials decided to tear down those horrific labyrinthine alleys, wynds and closes. Thomas Annan was appointed to make a record of the place, before it disappeared forever from the earth.

Meanwhile, on that other, frankly, entirely and totally boring and cheerless subject, careering (even worse than the Glasgow slums, on the scale of indignity and humiliation), don't worry, nobody will ever buy your book unless the Powers That Be advise it.

Just got in my inbox an Amy King book promo from SPD, the distribution place. They pick who they want to back. And that's who will sell. Big leagues, little leagues, no difference.

But the outside-looking-in position at least has a certain independence going for it. Just carry a hanky so as to wipe the nose-smudges off the candy shop window when you're done ogling.

aditya said...

After the recent spate of posts on your blog Beyond the Pale, each as insightfulas ever, and the newfound moderation, this post arrives as a consummation of virtually everything.

'Capital is accumulated labour.'

Such a large number of 'anti-communist' books have been written, published and consumed all over the world.

If every one of these laborers could write a book there would be an uncountable number
floating in the free-markets
but a farmer, a labor-worker can not write a book for .. he is producing food, clothes and homes for us.

A million migrant laborers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh live in New Delhi. Families living in 10 by 10 rooms. And on your way to the bazaar, once in a while, a child runs after you requesting .. to get a candy on your way back.

a poem

TC said...

I thank the gods for your crazy wisdom and beautiful sense of timing, at all times, Aditya.

Sweet poem, and apt. The gods recommend that everyone click on it.

In the world impoverishment sweepstakes, there are always so many candidates... for oblivion.

aditya said...

That is very sweet of you Tom. BTP is certainly one of the few good things which cannot be taken down by the gods. No matter what.