Book Review of The Classic Slum Essay

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The book The Classic Slum: Salford Life in the First Quarter of the Century by Robert Roberts gives an honest account of a village in Manchester in the first 25 years of the 20th century. The title is a reference to a description used by Friedrich Engels to describe the area in his book Conditions of the Working Class. The University of Manchester Press first published Roberts' book in the year 1971. The more recent publication by Penguin Books contains 254 pages, including the appendices. The author gives a firsthand description of the extreme poverty that gripped the area in which he grew up. His unique perspective allows him to accurately describe the self-imposed caste system, the causes and effects of widespread poverty, and the …show more content…
Roberts organizes his book based on certain themes, such as culture and day-to-day life, paying special attention to the pre- and post-War periods so as to emphasize the evolution of the slum throughout the period of time covered. He divides it into chapters that cover specific aspects of society and day-to-day life in order to accentuate certain points. His writing style is a unique and well-chosen blend of personal reminiscences and historical research. Much of his writing, including his own experiences, is presented in a very matter-of-fact way. The impact this style has on the reader is great because he is able to state such horrors so bluntly, as only someone who was truly there can. Occasionally, however, his emotions break through, as is evident in his explanation of his parents' separation and subsequent death on page 238. Lastly, the work is scholarly and concise, as Roberts chooses to get straight to the point and elaborate on it rather than saying the same thing in many different ways.

The book is far from a complete history and instead focuses on one specific sector of British history, the plight of the poor in early 20th century Manchester. Three main points seems to fight their way to the forefront, as they drive the direction and tone of the book. The first main point stressed is the elaborate and complex social stratification. Roberts says on the first page, "I grew up in what was perhaps an ideal

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