Work, Life and Leisure Cities in the Contemporary World | Notes

Work, Life and Leisure Cities in the Contemporary World | Notes

Work, Life and Leisure Cities in the Contemporary World

Modern cities developed only about 200 years ago. The rise of industrial capitalism, colonialism and the development of democratic ideas in the mid-eighteenth century were three factors which shaped the modern cities in the world.

Rise of London

London has been one of the most prominent cities of Britain. By 1750, its population was 675,000 with many people still migrating to the city. Five major industries in London—clothing and footwear, wood and furniture, metals and engineering, printing and stationery, and precision objects employed many people in London. During the First World War, motor cars and electrical goods also began to be manufactured.

Marginal Groups in London

  • Because many people migrated to London, it was estimated that about 20,000 criminals were living in the city in the 1870s. Their activities were watched and investigated by the police.
  • According to Henry Mayhew, most criminals were poor people who used to steal food from shops, lead from roofs and the hemp of coal for filling their empty stomachs.
  • Apart from these, there were also thugs, tricksters, pickpockets and other thieves who lived in the cities.
  • To reduce the number of these crimes, the Government imposed high penalties and offered work to those who stole to fulfil their necessities.
  • There were a large number of women working in factories, but they began to lose their jobs after technological developments. They were limited to household forms of work.
  • According to the census of 1861, there were about a quarter of a million domestic servants in London. Most of them were women who had migrated to the city.
  • Many children were employed in low-paid forms of work by poor parents. It was only after the Compulsory Elementary Education Act was passed in 1870 and the Factory Acts that employing children became illegal.

Housing and Hygiene

  • Migrants who arrived in London mostly had to live in cheap and unsafe tenements. Most of the workforce were poor and lived in dangerous situations in unsafe tenements.
  • The well-to-do section of society wanted slums to be completely erased to the ground.
  • Gradually, people began to realise the need for better housing facilities for their workers. This was due to the following reasons:
  • Overcrowding of one-room tenements was seen as a health hazard for the public.
  • Fire hazards were created by poor housing.
  • After the Russian Revolution, to avoid the uprising of workers, the need for housing for the poor was realised.

Many workers migrated to Londonin search of work opportunities


  • Many steps were taken to clean London. Steps were taken to decongest the localities, to plant more trees, reduce pollution and change the landscape of the city.
  • Many wealthy families began to move to the countryside for a few days to get clean air.
  • Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker designed the garden city of New Earswick. It was laid with garden spaces and had good views. However, only well-off workers could afford houses in the city.
  • During 1919–39, the Government built houses for the working class. London further expanded and a need was felt for a transport system.

Transport in the City

  • The London Underground Railway solved the issue of commuting to and fro from houses to factories. By 1880, the expanding train service was carrying about 40 million passengers a year.
  • However, the railways also led to the creation of waste in the city. To make two miles of railways, 900 houses had to be destroyed.
  • The railways however became a huge success. Planned suburbs and the large railway network helped people to travel to London from the suburbs.

Construction of underground railways in London made commuting easy for workers

Social Changes in the City

  • As the industrial city of London emerged, bonds shared among family members began to weaken.
  • The new city created a spirit of individualism among men and women.
  • As women began to lose their jobs because of technological advancement, they were mostly engaged in household work. Thus, the public space became more of a sphere of men.
  • It was later that women also came out of their houses to demand the right to vote and the right to property for married women.
  • During the two World Wars, women again stepped into the public domain and began to work in offices and business units. The family now became a much smaller unit.

Leisure and Entertainment in the City

  • London was beaming with many cultural events such as the opera, theatre and performance of classical music.
  • Pubs were frequented by the working class to spend some free time, to discuss office work and to exchange news.
  • Libraries, art galleries and museums were set up to instil a sense of pride among the people.
  • By the early twentieth century, cinema became a great source of entertainment for the people.
  • Many workers were also encouraged to spend their time near the seashore.

Theatre was a source of entertainment for people in London

Development of Bombay in India

  • Bombay was a group of seven islands in the seventeenth century. It was presented as a dowry to the British by the Portuguese in 1661 when King Charles II married a Portuguese princess.
  • The East India Company then shifted its base from Surat to Bombay.
  • Bombay soon became an important administrative and industrial centre in western India.
  • In 1854, the first cotton mill was set up in Bombay. The number of mills increased to 85 by 1921. A large number of workers came to the city in search of employment.
  • The railways also carried thousands of workers into the city.

Bombay was just a small village in the seventeenth century

Housing and Neighbourhood

  • Bombay had become too crowded. It also did not develop according to any plans.
  • The Bombay Fort area was divided into a ‘native’ section, where the Indians lived, and the ‘white’ section, where the Europeans lived. Soon, a European suburb and an industrial zone were developed in the city.
  • Because of rapid and unplanned expansion of the city, water shortage became acute by the 1850s. The establishment of textile mills further complicated this problem.
  • The rich section of Indian society-Parsis, Muslims and upper caste traders-lived in spacious bungalows.
  • Workers or labourers mostly lived in chawls. More than 90% of the mill workers were housed in Girangaon-a mill village located just 15 minutes of walking distance from the city.
  • Chawls were multi-storeyed buildings which were owned by merchants and landowners. These chawls had no private toilets.
  • In between the chawls, many shops and akharas were opened. The chawls became a place where people met each other and discussed developments in jobs, politics, riots or demonstrations.
  • Bombay began to be planned because of the fear of the outbreak of plague.

Most of the working class in Bombay lived in chawls

Land Reclamation in Bombay

  • Because there was always a scarcity of land in Bombay, the seven islands of Bombay were joined into one landmass over a period of time.
  • The earliest project began in 1784.
  • There have been several projects on the reclamation of land from the sea in Bombay. Many private companies provided the finance needed for these projects.
  • In 1864, the Back Bay Reclamation Company won the right to reclaim the western part from the tip of Malabar Hill to the end of Colaba.
  • Various reclamation projects were undertaken by the Bombay Port Trust. Many areas such as Ballard Estate and Marine Drive were developed after reclaiming these areas from the sea.

Cinema in Bombay

  • Bombay became a city of dreams for millions after the film industry developed in the city.
  • Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar first shot a scene of a wrestling match at Hanging Gardens in Bombay.
  • Dadasaheb Phalke made the first film Raja Harishchandra in 1913. By 1925, Bombay was producing films for national audiences.
  • By 1947, the film industry employed about 520,000 people.
  • Most of the people working in the film industry were migrants who came from various parts of the country such as Lahore, Calcutta and Madras. The city of Bombay soon began to be known as ‘Mayanagari’.

Dadasaheb Phalke – Father of Indian Cinema

Singapore – A Planned City

  • Singapore is an example of a well-planned city. The planning of Singapore had begun as early as in 1822, but only the ruling white section of society was benefited.
  • For most people, the city was suffering from overcrowding, lack of sanitation, poor housing and poverty.
  • When the city became a free nation in 1965 under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, a large-scale housing and development programme was undertaken.
  • The Government provided houses of good quality to more than 85% of the population of the country.
  • The houses had a proper ventilation system with empty floors for community activities. The aged were also housed alongside their families.
  • Migration into the city was controlled, and three major groups of people-Chinese, Malays and Indianswere monitored to prevent any kind of riot.
  • However, although the people in Singapore are rich, most of them point towards the lack of challenging political culture and liveliness in the city.

Singapore was developed in a well-planned manner after its independence in 1965.

Cities and Challenges of the Environment

  • Building and expansion of cities always create environmental and ecological problems. Construction of houses, industries and the transport system results in land, air and water pollution.
  • In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, cities such as Leeds, Bradford, London and Manchester emitted black smoke into the air.
  • People in these cities complained of black fog and the illness which it was causing.
  • Passing and implementation of legislations were always difficult as industrialists did not want to spend on controlling pollution.
  • However, the level of pollution was controlled in cities such as Leeds, Bradford, Derby and Manchester.
  • The city of Calcutta also suffered from pollution. Apart from industries, pollution levels were high as people depended on dung and wood as fuel in their daily lives.
  • The establishment of the railways further aggravated problems as these railways were run on coal procured from Raniganj.
  • In 1863, Calcutta became the first city in India to get smoke nuisance legislation.
  • However, controlling pollution still proved difficult not only for Calcutta but also for other cities of India.