Cheap Street

London's street markets and the cultures of informality, c.1850-1939

By Victoria Kelley

Cheap Street


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6385-1
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: June 2022
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Social & cultural history, Modern History, History, History, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Victorian Era (1837-1901), HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic History, London, Greater London, Humanities / British & Irish history, Economics, finance, business & management / Economic history


Cheap street is a lively and scholarly account of London's street markets, which were an overlooked site of urban modernity and the most vigorous outgrowth of the informal economy that flourished below and beyond the recognised institutions of the consumer city. Kelley brings together design and material culture history, urban studies and social and cultural history to analyse the street markets' distinct characteristics. These included the flaring naked flames of their naphtha lights, their impermanent yet persistent unofficial occupation of space, and the noisy performative selling that took place there. The result is a new interpretation of London's urban geographies, moving beyond the accepted view of the West End as the consumer city and the East as the city of poverty, and demonstrating that the informality of the street markets was a powerful force in shaping representations of London and its people.


'Throughout, Kelley evokes the vibrancy and spectacle of the street markets. The chapter on 'Streets' is a highlight, due no doubt to her expertise in the history of design and material culture. ... These stories do not just stick in the mind. London's irregular markets were full of delight and stimulation, but at the same time complicated categories and norms of metropolitan society. Kelley lets London's street markets dazzle us, before making us think again.'
Charlie Taverner, Cultural and Social History

'A well-written and richly illustrated book on London street markets, Victoria Kelley challenges conventional narratives of Victorian street markets as imaginative and material relics of the past.'
Judith Walkowitz, Victorian Studies

'Kelley's hugely entertaining treatment of the market culture of the East End provides an important contribution to the literature surrounding the area and the cultures of poverty and subsistence that underpinned the "informal" economy of the poor ... There is a breadth of scope and an adventurousness of interpretive method here that gives Kelley's study a refreshingly different take on some traditional themes.'
Antony Taylor, Left History


1. What is a street market?
2. Things
3. Streets
4. People
5. Street markets, informality and the performance of London
Select bibliography


Victoria Kelley is Director of Research and Professor of the History of Design and Material Culture at the University for the Creative Arts

Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout