Lunchtime seminar series – 14th October: Simon Abernethy (University of Cambridge)

CHSTMSeminar Simon Abernethy-1-page-001

Pipe down: Smoke and smokers on the London underground

Opened in 1863, the Metropolitan was the first underground railway in the world. But it suffered from this novelty. Regularly using steam locomotives underground until the twentieth century, the railway became notorious for its atmosphere of ‘hot sulphurous vapour’. Despite this, and in some cases because of this, passengers demanded they be allowed to smoke on board trains. The popular pressure was such that the matter even went to Parliament. This paper charts how the underground railways tried to deal with the problem of the smoke filled atmosphere, why passengers demanded smoking be allowed and the problems that then emerged, and then the decline of the smoke and the smokers in the twentieth century. In doing so, it charts changing public opinion and ideas over the benefits of smoking.

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