More than half of the world's population now lives in urban areas, but a billion of these people reside in neighbourhoods characterized by entrenched disadvantage. These neighbourhoods, known as 'slums', are often seen as a debilitating and even subversive presence within society. In reality, however, it is often the host societies and their public policies that are at fault. In this comprehensive global history, Alan Mayne explores the evolution and meaning of the word 'slum', from its origins in London in the early nineteenth century to its use to describe favela communities in the lead up to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. The word 'slum' has been extensively used for two hundred years to condemn and disperse poor communities. Mounting a case for the word's elimination from the language of progressive urban social reform, Slums is a must-read book for all those interested in social history and the importance of these vibrant and vital neighbourhoods.
Alan Mayne is Visiting Professor in the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester and Adjunct Professor at the University of South Australia. His previous books include The Imagined Slum: Newspaper Representation in Three Cities, 1870-1914 (1993).