England's capital, London, is looked upon as one of the most interesting European cities. Many people travel to London every year to take in the beautiful scenery and the rich culture. However, in William Blake's poem, London, the city is portrayed very differently. There is nothing exciting about the side of London that he sees. London shows a city that is crowded and oppressive. The poem was written in 1794 at the time of the industrial revolution. Blake's London is over-populated and there is depression throughout Britain. Children are being made to work in horrible factory conditions, war has broken out between France and Britain and the need for gin is consuming the lives of many people. Young women turn to prostitution as the only way to support themselves. Even the design of the streets and canals makes London a constricting environment. With Blake's use of repetition, he describes a city that is cold and unnatural. He repeats the words "chartered", "every" and "cry". Blake uses the images of the crying children, prostitutes and soldiers to show the despair of London.
The wail of the children is part of the misery described in London. At this time in Britain, the industrial revolution was taking place. London was Britain's centre of manufacturing. In the textile mills and factories were thousands of workers treated very much like slaves. Most of these workers were under the age of sixteen. The children were oppressed in every way possible. They were beaten, malnourished and worked beyond exhaustion. Many of the children were orphans also, and they were locked in the factories after a workday because they had no place to go home to. Also, they were locked inside so they could not try to run away. Because of the conditions of the factories, most of the children had stunted growth and severe health problems; and the little money that they were paid was no where near enough to help their families survive.