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OU on the BBC: The Secret History Of Our Streets: London ARCHIVE

Updated Tuesday, 29th May 2012

Six streets - apparently unremarkable, but each one with a lot to tell us about how life and London has changed in 150 years.

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Detail from Charles Booth's map of Shoreditch Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Map used with thanks to the LSE A detail from one of Charles Booth's maps A new Open University co-production for BBC Two, The Secret History Of Our Streets is history in microcosm told through the stories of six London streets and charting more than 100 years of radical and unpredictable social change.

In 1886 Charles Booth embarked on an ambitious plan to visit every one of London’s streets to record the social conditions of residents. His project took him 17 years.

On finishing, he had constructed a groundbreaking series of maps which recorded the social class and standing of inhabitants. These maps transformed the way Victorians felt about their capital city.

The Secret History Of Our Streets takes six archetypal London streets as they are now, discovering how they have fared since Booth’s day.

Booth colour coded each street, from yellow for the “Servant-Keeping Classes” down to black for the “Vicious and Semi-criminal”. With the aid of maps the series explores why certain streets have been transformed from desperate slums to become some of the most desirable and valuable property in the UK, while others have barely changed.

This landmark six part series features residents past and present, exploring how what happened on the street in the last 125 years continues to shape the lives of those who live there now.

The six streets featured in the series are:

Here on OpenLearn, you can explore tales of other amazing, everyday places around the country - and we want to hear stories from your streets, too.

The Secret History Of Our Streets is broadcast over six weeks on BBC Two, starting Wednesday 6th June 2012. For full broadcast schedules, and to watch online where available, please visit






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