Maud Davies, Small Town Whistleblower, Died 100 Years Ago. Why Is Everyone Talking About Her Now?

Maud Davies (Photo:© SWNS Group)Her story sounds like the plot of a contemporary movie. Maud Davies, a 29-year-old Englishwoman writes a study of life in her small town, complete with juicy details on drunken villagers. Unhappy, the townspeople fight to have the book suppressed. Years later, Davies is found dead, possibly murdered.

But the scandal occurred nearly 100 years ago in 1905, and now excerpts from Davies’ book, published in a new edition called “Life in an English Village,” by Hobnob Press, are going viral.

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Davies describes hard-working families with “dirty children” as “a poor lot, [who] drink too much and don’t pay,” and frequently sees people at the pub drinking “more than such people could afford.” One wife gets so drunk “she could hardly sit in the cart.”

“I’m not aware that Davies was pro-temperance. She was not judgmental about the village pubs, but obviously disapproved of drunkenness and frittering away meager income on drink,” John Chandler, a local researcher and publisher of the book, told Yahoo! Shine.

Davies was a pioneer sociologist who studied at the London School of Economics, no small feat for a woman in the early 1900s. When she returned to her hometown of Corsley, in Wilshire, England, she studied the townspeople during the winter of 1905-1906.

But when she tried to publish her findings, which included information on incomes, labor, children, and drinking habits, the villagers tried to have her book suppressed by the local parish council.

“Maud’s purpose in the book had been to better the lot of the poor by exposing and analyzing their poverty, while the councilors considered they were defending the poor of the parish against criticism,” Dr. Jane Howells, the editor of the book, writes in her introduction to the new edition.

Though the townspeople did not succeed in suppressing the publication, in subsequent years Davies and her book were largely forgotten outside of academic circles. John Chandler found a version of the book in a library in 1970.

After her squabble in Corsley, Davies traveled to the French West Indies and America where she studied the “white slave trade,” trafficking prostitutes from England, but never got a chance to write about her research there.

Tragically, at the age of 37, Davies was found decapitated underneath a London subway train. Scholars have theorized that perhaps someone from Corsley or in the human trafficking business bore a grudge against Davies—others think she may have committed suicide.

Regardless of the circumstances of her death, now Davies’ hard work to expose the harsh realities of day-to-day life in a typical small village will be available for readers and researchers for years to come.


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