The People of the Abyss was written at the beginning of this century, and yet, it speaks just as vividly of the conditions at end of the century. We are seeing the erosion and deterioration of all that was won through hard-fought labor battles: the end of the 8 hour work day; people working two jobs and still not being able to make ends meet; children left to their own devices as parents are stretched to the breaking point; the rise of infectious diseases, especially tuberculosis, as people are forced to live in more crowded, unsanitary conditions; the lack of healthcare; increasing numbers of people living on the street; and hunger.
These were the conditions Jack London saw and described in East London at the turn of the century; but they could as easily have been New York City or any large city; and they could be any large city today.
Jack London came to the East End of London in 1902, and The People of the Abyss is the result of his investigative journalism that paints a vivid and disturbing portrait. It is both a literary masterpiece and a major sociological study. London posed as a stranded American sailor, sleeping in doss houses and living with the destitute and starving – the record of what he saw there remains as powerful today as it was then. The new edition includes an introduction by Jack Lindsay, giving a full contextual background to London’s life and work.