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Remembering the Tenements Day Dublin Tenement Museum Project 16th April 2016 April 10, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

More details here.


1. fergal - April 10, 2016

Has anybody else here heard something along the lines of ‘Dublin’s tenements were the worst in Europe’? Surely, slums in Glasgow, Barcelona and especially Naples were just as bad if not worse? The latter city having to contend with malaria, typhus and cholera- cholera breaking out there up to the 1970s, as well as earthquakes and the mafia(well, maybe that’s not so unique)


WorldbyStorm - April 10, 2016

I’ve sometimes wondered that myself. One would think that where slums persisted into the mid or late 20th century in states like Spain and Portugal which were had a fascist tinge and more there’d be even greater problems. But I don’t know. Be useful to find out.


CMK - April 10, 2016

One thing that was made clear by Paul Preston in his ‘The Spanish Holocaust’ was the extent to which the Francoist Falange forces in the Spanish civil war viewed the Spanish working class in racial terms: i.e the Spanish working class were a different ‘race’ to other Spaniards and, thus, killing them in huge numbers was morally correct. Franco and his forces took this attitude from their military campaigns in Morocco during the 1920’s and early 1930’s. It’s not hard to deduce from that, that the post 1939 local authorities in Spain would not have been too concerned with the housing needs of the working class.


2. Brian Hanley - April 10, 2016

Dublin’s slums were certainly the worst in the United Kingdom- firstly in terms of scale – nearly 90,000 people out of a population of just over 300,000 living in them, a huge proportion of them in one room, over 20,000 in homes officially unfit for human habitation. In Belfast in contrast about 1% of the population of a city of about 380,000 people lived in tenements. Glasgow was bad, but Dublin was worse. Dublin also had the highest infant mortality, worst rates of TB etc. In European terms contemporary accounts did often compare it to Naples. Dublin had a huge unskilled male population (18,000 plus) who were often out of work, depended on seasonal or casual labour and tended to live in the tenements, Only about 3,000 Dubliners had ‘stable’ factory jobs. So physically, socially and politically the tenements in Dublin loomed large. How bad or how terrible an individual life compared to somewhere else is of course all relative and who you blamed for it is another question.

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3. fergal - April 10, 2016

Cheers Brian for those insights. Mike Davis in his Planet of Slums suggests that Naples was the forerunner for modern day cities like Kinshasa and Lima with permanent unemployment in the 19th estimated to be about 40%! Snowden explains in ‘Naples in the time of Cholera’ that there was a chronic super abundance of labour there- newspaper sellers, gypsy huxters, street vendors of chestnuts, shoelaces, vegetables, pizzas, mussels, recycled clothes, water, corn cobs and sweets. Another casual job was funeral attendee- people getting a few bob to swell the ranks of a rich person’s funeral. Snowden calls Naples ‘the most shocking city of the nineteenth century’. I suppose what ‘saved’ Glasgow and Belfast was a very strong industrial base-any figures for slum dwellings in Glasgow from that time?
Naples and Barcelona as well as having plenty of tenements also had huge shantytowns(nearest local equivalent traveller camps?) some lasting up to the 80s. In Barcelona around 100,000 out of a population of 1.6m lived in shantytowns, as distinct from tenement flats,in 1960
I suppose what I’m getting at is that for obvious reasons our references are framed within largely an English- speaking context that can only tell part of a much bigger story..

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4. Brian Hanley - April 10, 2016

Good points Fergal and I agree re English-speaking reference points. I don’t honestly know enough about Naples to make a comparison.


sonofstan - April 10, 2016

I remember reading, peripheral to something I was working on, a piece by Alfred Sohn-Rethel, whoseIntellectual and Manual Labour ought to be better known, and then a further piece by Benjamin about the time they both spent in Naples in the twenties, and what was striking was the exoticising tone of both men about the place – like nothing so much as the sort of guff you get about India now from westerners. What was clear is that Naples was not part of their Europe, and the poverty was ever so charming.


Michael Carley - April 11, 2016

You still get that kind of guff about Southern Italy, especially when food writers go on about “authenticity”: it reads like Myles on aesthetes.


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