in Cheap Street
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This chapter investigates the costermongers and street sellers who sold in London’s street markets, analysing their experiences and the mechanisms by which they made a living in buying and selling. The costermongers were identified by Henry Mayhew in 1851 as a distinct and alien ‘race’, and the chapter examines whether this sense of difference derived from or determined the informality of street trade, and how it was reflected in later accounts, including that of Charles Booth. Immigrants – especially the Irish and Jewish – were prominent among London’s street sellers, and the chapter explores the street markets’ potential for hybridity. It concludes with a cultural turn, examining how the distinctive identity of the street market people was represented, and engaging with the problematic figure of the pearly king. Was the nostalgic and mythic idea of the Londoner or cockney that arose in the late nineteenth century merely an invented tradition or did it have some link to the lives of the people of the street markets?

Cheap Street

London’s street markets and the cultures of informality, c. 1850–1939



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