Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Ellen Wurtzel


London, Canals, Working-class, Narrowboats, Pollution, John Nash; 1800s, Victorian Era, Narrowboaters, Reform, Urban history, Industrialism, Transportation, Community, England, City planning, Regents Canal


As one of the earliest man-made transit structures to run from the west to the east side of the city, the Regents Canal had and still has a profound impact on both Londoners and the city itself. By examining this waterway as more than just a brief moment in the greater development of British industrial transportation and instead focusing on the social and cultural legacy of this space, I demonstrate how the Regents Canal embodies E.P. Thompsons idea of the industrial transition, ultimately revealing how a rich history of community, connection, and conflict manifested in this liminal space during the 19th century and beyond. This study does so by first exploring the unique duality of this waterway and how it embodied particular characteristics of the city of London in this moment of transition towards the industrial. Then discussing how the lived reality along the banks of the canal was radically different from what the Regents Canal company so carefully planned as the designers seemed to overlook the fact that a canal would promote movement. This created conflict as previously separate classes of people were brought closer together than ever before and as the city of London progressed further in the process of industrialization. Finally, this paper seeks to understand the attempted forced cultural assimilation of canal workers through the 1877 and 1884 canal acts as the age of canals came to an end to shed light on the working-class agency and messiness present during this moment of radical industrial and cultural change.

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