Charles Booth was a shipping line owner whose revolutionary inquiry into the conditions of the London working class and tireless campaign for the introduction of old age pensions helped lay the foundations of the modern welfare state.


Born at Liverpool on 30 March 1840, the third son of Charles Booth and Emily Fletcher. Charles Booth Senior was a wealthy corn merchant who, in 1860, left to each of his five children the sum of 20,000. In 1862, the young Charles combined his fortune with that of his eldest brother Alfred, investing it in the construction of two steamships, the Augustine and the Jerome, with the aim of building up a fleet to carry merchandise to and fro across the Atlantic. From this relatively modest enterprise grew the Booth Steamship Company, a huge concern which gained interests in many parts of the world, especially in the Amazon River trade of South America, and of which Charles was Chairman until 1912. The construction of the great harbour of Manaus in Brazil occurred as a result of the Booth enterprise.