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Charles Booth

Born: 30-Mar-1840
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Died: 23-Nov-1916
Location of death: Thringstone, Leicestershire, England
Cause of death: Stroke
Remains: Buried, St. Andrew's Church, Thringstone, Leicestershire, England

Gender: Male
Religion: Unitarian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Sociologist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Studied poverty in London

For almost forty years, Charles Booth and his brother ran a profitable business selling skins and leather. In 1884 he was appointed to help oversee the analysis of certain census data, presumably because of his experience in business and his demonstrated aptitude for mathematics, but he reported that the census forms were woefully incomplete and unsatisfactory. The following year, the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) released the results of its study of London-area indigence and distress, concluding that about 25% of the city's people lived in abject poverty. Booth thought that this number was unreliable and "grossly overstated," and he resolved to conduct a thorough inquiry of his own, to determine the true extent of the problem.

Despite having no sociological training, he conducted a series of large-scale, statistically sound studies, compiling dozens of books of data, with exhaustive notations of each responding family's economic level and the breadwinners' occupations, and detailed interviews with church and charity workers. He also created, beginning in 1889, an innovative series of color-coded maps that graphically illustrated his findings, using seven different colors to indicate the varying income levels in each of the city's many neighborhoods.

To his initial surprise, Booth's research repeatedly showed that instead of overstating the problem, the SDF's study had actually underreported the extent of impoverishment about 30 percent of London's citizens were destitute at around the turn of the 20th century, and of these, less than one percent could reasonably be deemed responsible for their own economic situation. With so many of the urban poor living in poverty, Booth maintained that it was unrealistic to expect private charities to adequately address the problem, and instead he urged the state to provide aid for the poor and provide pensions for senior citizens.

Booth's political inclinations were varied he switched his registration from the Liberal to the Conservative Party in the early 1900s but he strongly supported the Old Age Pensions Act, enacted by Parliament in 1908. He died in 1916, but his color-coded maps helped spur the introduction of London's first public housing projects in the early 1920s, and his research remained influential in the establishment of Liberal government-backed "social safety net" services through the first half of the 20th century.

His wife was a niece of historian Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Father: Charles Booth (corn merchant, b. 2-Jul-1799, d. 2-Feb-1860)
Mother: Emily Fletcher Booth (m. 20-Aug-1829, d. 4-Jul-1853)
Sister: Anna Booth Holt (b. 1833, d. 9-Mar-1899)
Brother: Alfred Booth (Justice of the Peace, b. 3-Sep-1834, d. 2-Nov-1914)
Brother: Thomas Booth (b. 1837, d. 1863)
Sister: Hester Emily Booth (b. 1842, d. 1906)
Girlfriend: Antonia Prange (dated early 1860s, d. 1862)
Wife: Mary Catherine Macaulay (b. 4-Nov-1847, m. 29-Apr-1871, d. 25-Sep-1939)
Daughter: Antonia Mary Booth Macnaghten (b. 3-Feb-1873, d. 18-Jan-1952)
Son: Thomas Macaulay Booth (Booth & Co. executive, b. 10-Apr-1874, d. 24-Feb-1970)
Daughter: Paulina Mary Booth (b. 7-Oct-1875, d. 18-Mar-1876)
Son: George Macaulay Booth (High Sheriff of London, b. 22-Sep-1877, d. 10-Mar-1971)
Daughter: Margaret Paulina Booth Ritchie (b. 26-Jul-1879, d. 5-Jun-1970)
Daughter: Mary Imogen Booth Gore-Browne (b. circa 1883, d. 31-Jul-1975)
Son: Charles Zachary Macaulay Booth (b. 2-Aug-1886, d. 7-Nov-1968)

    High School: Royal Institution School, Liverpool, England

    Alfred Booth and Company Co-Founder & Co-Owner (1863-1912)
    Walden & Booth Co-Owner (1860-63)
    Rathbone Brothers Shop Manager (1857-60)
    Lamport and Holt Line Apprentice (1850-57)
    RSS Guy Medal in Gold (1892)
    Royal Society 1899
    Royal Statistical Society (President, 1892)
    Stroke (fatal) 23-Nov-1916

Official Website:

Author of books:
Life and Labour of the People (1889-91, 2 vols.)
Pauperism, A Picture; and the Endowment of Old Age, An Argument (1892)
Life and Labour of the People in London (1892-97, 2nd Edition, 9 vols.)
The Aged Poor in England and Wales (1894)
Old Age Pensions and the Aged Poor (1899)
Life and Labour of the People in London (1902-03, 3rd Edition, 17 vols.)
Industrial Unrest and Trade Union Policy (1914)
Charles Booth's London (1962, essays; posthumous)

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