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Fools, snobs and men”; how public transport can tell us about changing London society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Event type
Transport & Mobility History
Event dates
, 5:30PM - 7:30PM
Online- via Zoom
Simon Abernethy (Transport for London)
Email only

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw huge changes in London society. The rise of the rail served suburbs, both middle and working class, saw a decentralisation unlike anything seen before, while the connectivity provided by public transport created new opportunities to move around the metropolis. Public transport became an unusual every-day intersection between different groups that traditionally would have maintained a (pre-pandemic!) social distance from each other. Whether this was well to do clerks and manual labourers, female shoppers and male commuters or smokers and non-smokers, individuals found themselves coming across one another, and not necessarily in a welcome way. What then makes public transport such a useful means of looking at these interactions and changes is the fact so much of it was recorded. Ticket sales for different classes of accommodation, times of travel, even means of travel, all give a sense of what was happening and how life was changing, while periodicals and newspapers from the time provide a bit of sensationalist flavour. Then, as now, complaining to the media about the inadequacies of public transport was a common past time. This is a whistle-stop tour of how the railways went from offering 6 different classes of accommodation segregated by class and gender in the 1870s, to the buses offering one class of accommodation by the 1910s, and what that can tell us about the people who used it all.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but advance booking is required.