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Rescuing England: The Rhetoric of Imperialism and the Salvation Army

Ellen J. Stockstill on how William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, placed the ideas and language of colonialism at the very heart of his vision for improving the lives of Victorian England’s poor.

William Booth’s illustration “In Darkest England and the Way Out”. While copies of the chart were bound into
Booth’s book of the same name, this copy featured here was actually issued as a supplement to The Review of Reviews,
November 1890 — Source.

The first sight to greet the reader upon opening William Booth’s In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890), his book on poverty in Victorian England, is a striking and elaborately detailed “chart”. The sprawling image, a lithograph which folds out of the book like a small poster, is part graphic representation and part statistical record — both an illustration of the country’s plight and Booth’s model for salvation. At the bottom of the image, the artist depicts “3,000,000 in the sea” drowning under the weight of a wide range of sins and states of depravity, flailing amidst waves labelled “drunkenness”, “slavery”, “rape”, “infanticide”, “prostitution”, “murder”, “illegitimacy”, “divorce”, “wife desertion”, “suicide”, “betting”, “homelessness” and, somewhat curiously, “sweating”.
From the rocks either side Salvation Army Officers help people from the water and usher them towards the “City Colony”, where they will have opportunities at “rescue homes”, “bakeries”, and “cheap food depots”; where they will find permanent work, and live in homes for “married people”, “girls”, “inebriates”, “single women”, “children”, and “the homeless”.
From here clear pathways guide the way to the peaceful, green, and spacious “Farm Colony”, 
and then still farther on to the more distant “Colony Across the Sea”, with routes shown to British colonies, the United States, and “all parts of the world”. Flanking this utopian image of social reform stand columns bearing numerical data about “prostitutes” (over 30,000 in London, 

100,000 in Great Britain); “criminals” (32,000 in prison); “drink” (“There are half a million drunkards in Great Britain”) and “drink traffic” (120,000 “Licensed Drinks Shops”); 
“destitution” (993,000); “the poor” (100,000 homeless); and “misery” (190,000 in workhouses). The bases of these columns inform viewers that 2,297 people died from suicide and 2,157 were found dead the previous year. On the plinths below are carved a litany of sins, from “reviling” and “fornication” to “lying” and “avarice”.

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