Jim Clifford

West Ham and the River Lea

A Social and Environmental History of London’s Industrialized Marshlands, 1839-1914

University of British Columbia Press 2017

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In West Ham and the River Lea: A Social and Environmental History of London’s Industrialized Marshlands, 1839-1914 (University of British Columbia Press, 2017), Jim...

In West Ham and the River Lea: A Social and Environmental History of London’s Industrialized Marshlands, 1839-1914 (University of British Columbia Press, 2017), Jim Clifford brings together histories of water and river systems, urban history, environmental history, and labor history. Using archival materials with a particular focus on Ordnance Survey maps and historical GIS (geographical information systems), he explores Greater London’s second important river, the Lea, using it as a lens through which to track industrialization in the 19th and early 20th century. He shows how the River Lea made West Ham an attractive area for industrial development, drawing manufacturing and chemical plants to the area. Workers followed, and over the course the second half of the 19th century the area grew rapidly in population, so that West Ham became one of Britain’s largest industrial centers. At the same time, the River Lea and the marshlands through which it flowed were transformed by pollution and development, ultimately generating important political responses by the early 20th century.

Jim Clifford is an Associate Professor of Environmental History at the University of Saskatchewan. His research focuses on the history of Britain and the British world during the long 19th century, with particular focus on the industrialization of Greater London and its relationships to global commodities. In addition to this work, he is developing a broader historical GIS project to track the distant environmental effects of commodity chains, which you can view here.


David Fouser is an adjunct faculty member at Santa Monica College, Chapman University, and American Jewish University. He completed his Ph.D. in 2016 at the University of California, Irvine, and studies the cultural and environmental history of wheat, flour, and bread in Britain and the British Empire.

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