England in the 1800’s was hard in comparison to today. The life expectancy for a man aged 20 in 1850 was 60.1 years compared to 76.7 in 2004 (Geoff Canyon's Appeal to Authority, 2009). This was mainly due to the living conditions and especially those in the poor area of East London, where animals not only shared the often over crowed living area with humans but also the human waste that was thrown onto the streets. Often those who lived in the bottom apartments lived close to if not in the stench, more so than those who lived multiple stories above the streets. With the pollution of human waste in the streets and the polluted River Thames from the sewage of the West End, no matter where you lived in the East End, you still had to walk through the rising filth. These living conditions were the main reason for the various outbreaks of diseases, sores and premature deaths during the 1800’s (Engels, 2005).
Engels (2005) further discussed that a lack of medical assistance was a major issue, those that needed help had no way of obtaining it. Therefore, many of the illnesses of today were undiagnosed then; this could have been a major cause to many of the problems experienced during those times. The situation would have been made worse during the years that the Jewish immigrants were fleeing Russia, Poland and Germany from persecution or economic hardship (Jack the Ripper 1888, 2010) or of the Long Depression which spanned from 1873 to 1896. The main causes of the Long Depression were the Irish Famine, Irish Land War and the Land Act (Wikipedia, 2012).
During these times, education was not so different to the classes of society that people lived in during the 1800’s. Which education a child attended was based on their class within society. The upper class children attended private schools, the middle class attended separate institutions and then there was elementary education for the masses or the lower class (Gillard, 2011). Engels (2005) further mentions that these educators for the elementary schools of the lower classes have only taken on the positions for survival, as these teachers are “without elementary knowledge and moral discipline”.
In this area of East London, various workhouses were set up for the unfortunates as they were known; often the workhouses provided basic accommodation, dining halls, chapels and infirmaries for the workers, and basic education for the children, life in these workhouses were meant to be shameful and humiliating (Wise Geek, 2012). Rules had to be obeyed to remain in these workhouses (Workhouse The story of an institution, 2012); often they were very strict which resulted in many leaving and resorting to life on the street to find cheap doss houses otherwise known as lodging rooms where restrictions were far less than the workhouses. Some doss houses were also known as sweatshops, often with the set up being located in the back yard or attic.
The majority of these doss houses were owned by the middle class and controlled by the night watchmen who were employed to monitor the comings and goings and also to collect the money from those who lodged. There was no telephone or electricity in this area of London; messages to the police were usually provided by a runner or they had to wait for the officer to return on his rounds and light was usually given by an oil lamp or candle