How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman

imagesThis is brilliantly detailed and interesting book. Ruth Goodman is a historian and is an expert in nineteenth-century social and domestic history and has presented a number of BBC television series such as Victorian Farm, Victorian Pharmacy, Edwardian Farm , Tudor Monastery Farm and Wartime Farm.

As a presenter I find her engaging and as a writer she is great as these quotes will attest…

Written with such passion that one cannot help but be carried along . . . Will fascinate and inform anyone who is in any way interested in Victorian ways of life (Dr Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England)

A delightful read . . . allows us to see how the Victorians lived from day to day. A triumph (Judith Flanders, author of The Victorian City)

TVO - Victorian Farm ChristmasShocking, exciting, wonderful (Clive Anderson BBC Radio 4)

I absolutely love this book. Exuberant, absorbing … there’s scarcely a detail of Victorian life Ruth has not tried (A N Wilson Mail on Sunday)

Ruth – a woman who possesses so much elbow grease that she could probably can the overflow to sell on the side (Independent)

Goodman’s enthusiasm for history is as palpable as her contempt for misty-eyed interpretations of it (Telegraph)

Beetonian, compendious (Guardian)

Highly readable, often amusing and sometimes shocking, this is popular history at its best (BBC Who Do You Think You Are magazine)

Enlightening (Scotland on Sunday)

Fantastic book…make sure you buy it (London By Gaslight)


Charles Dicken’s London

A new book entitled ‘Charles Dickens’s London‘ has just been published by Ebury Press. I have yet to see it but this is what the product description says:

Over 200 stunning archive photographs, most of which have never been published before, illustrate this mesmerizing guide to Victorian London seen through the eyes of Charles Dickens. Setting Dickens against the city that was the backdrop and inspiration for his work, it takes the reader on a memorable and haunting journey, discovering the places and subjects which stimulated his imagination.

Here are captivating photographs of famous landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey, alongside coaching inns, the Thames before the Embankment was built, the construction of the Metropolitan Underground Line, the docklands that studded the river and the many villages that make up London today.

Authoritatively written and beautifully illustrated, this book will appeal to anyone who loves this beguiling city and wants to explore it as it was in Dickens’ day.

It looks like it could be a good addition on the photography front for those interested in Victorian London in general or just Dickens and his life. Although retailing at £25 you can get it from Amazon UK for £15.49.

I expect we will see many more books this year to mark the 200th anniversary so I will endeavour to keep us up to date.

Panoramas of Lost London

Whilst perusing one of the (sadly) few high street bookshops (Waterstones) remaining I came across Panoramas of Lost London: Work, Wealth, Poverty & Change 1870-1945.

Published by the English Heritage and with the involvement of Philip Davies it seems this is a second instalment to the fascinating Lost London 1870 – 1945 which was published in 2009.

The picture range is excellent from 1870 -1945 but at the rather expensive tag of £53.69 (via Amazon uk) I can see most people waiting until it is half that price in the (never-ending) sales sometime this year.

However it is a quality publication and sets out to reproduces 300 historic photographs commissioned by London County Council. To capture individual buildings and streets that, along with their entire neighbourhood, were on the threshold of redevelopment, and as with Lost London they are fascinating.

Victorian Babylon by Lynda Nead

Victorian Babylon is a great book by Lynda Nead who teaches history of art at Birkbeck College, University of London.

It really is a fresh look at the great Victorian Era. Here are some review:

In this innovative look at nineteenth-century London, Lynda Nead offers a fresh account of modernity and metropolitan life. Taking a highly interdisciplinary approach, Nead charts the relationship between London’s formation into a modern city in the 1860s and the emergence of new ways of producing and consuming visual culture. “There has been a raft of books on London …But none is likely to be as scholarly, as clever or as necessary as Lynda Nead’s Victorian Babylon …Nead has written a wonderful book that changes the way we think about cities.” Kathryn Hughes, The Daily Telegraph”

“compelling …Nead is writing as an academic, and so it is fascinating to find what might otherwise be dismissed as a novelist’s fantasy here given a theoretical underpinning in impeccably sourced and measured prose.Tom Holland, Literary Review “

This genuinely interdisciplinary study …makes a major contribution to our knowledge of the lived experience of the Victorian city.” Timothy Barringer, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians”

“Provocative and brilliant.” Susan P. Casteras, Nineteenth Century Studies “Splendid …Nead brings an art historian’s fine sense of visual detail; indeed, one of the most striking features of the book is the wonderful illustrative material. ” John Marriott, History Today”

“An intriguing study of London at the crossroads of modern history …Well-researched and insightful.” Rebecca Ittner, Victorian Homes “An evocative and visually stunning account of the shifting geographies, temporalities, and visions of mid-Victorian London …Well-researched and beautifully written.” Erika, D. Rappaport, Albion”

“Nead not only provides a more accurate regendering of the historical townscape but enriches our understanding of modern urban experience.Peter Bailey, Journal of Social History”

Some great reviews and I have to say this book is worthy of them. It is the story of the London in the middle of the 19th century as it expands and reflects upon the effect on the Metropolis.

The images here are wonderful and really help tell the story the Nead is telling, they how London expanded almost by accident, from a rambling mass to the marauding capital it a today.

It is available from Amazon.

My review of Lost London

Ever wondered what the late Victorian Era London really looked like?

Well this book will give you a very good idea.

Much that would’ve existed in Holmes London has either been pulled down or bombed out of existence by the Luftwaffe during world war two.

However Lost London 1870 – 1945 by Phillip Davies gives us a fascinating to the late Victorian era Lonodn with a collection of images that are second to none.

The lost buildings on streets of London show the deep poverty of the times which had led to a moral and social breakdown, some of the image are truly shocking when you consider that people actually lived in some of the wrecks.

It is also a reminder how the somewhat ruthless Victorian planners swept away vast tracts of London’s past. The loss of our Georgian, Shakespearean and medieval heritage is sad but the grand huge buildings that replaced that era had to imprint the new imperial status of Great Britain, and Britain for a short time was indeed great.

For those that live in London this excellent book, filled to the brim with beautifully reproduced mono-graphic images of London, our capital City that looks somewhat familar and at the same time not.

You can pick this tome for about £20 on Amazon or…its a fascinating study.

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Transatlantic Press (1 Sep 2009)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0955794986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955794988
  • Product Dimensions: 29.4 x 25 x 4 cm

Capital Punishments: Crime and Prison Conditions in Victorian Times

The Victorian world is one of richness and poverty and one I shall explore at a later date.

However I have just been given this book: Capital Punishments: Crime and Prison Conditions in Victorian Times by Steve Jones

This book is a good read and really takes a while for the hardship of the age to become apparent, take this case as an example:

Celery? the menu!

Prisoner 4415, that is the child on the front of the book is 11 year old James Leadbeater. All of 4 foot 2 inches was whipped and made to serve 4 days hard labour with hardened adult criminals.

His crime?

Stealing celery!!

I cannot believe that some of the things detailed in this book actually happened in Victorian times but they did and it is fascinating yet terribly sad reading.

Strangely though whilst is called Capital Punishment there’s not really much about capital punishment in the book itself…

  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Wicked Publications; 5th edition edition (1 Sep 1992)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 187000003X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1870000031
  • Product Dimensions: 29.4 x 20.6 x 1 cm