To Londoners, the years 1840 to 1870 were years of dramatic change and achievement. As suburbs expanded and roads multiplied, London was ripped apart to build railway lines and stations and life-saving sewers. The Thames was contained by embankments, and traffic congestion was eased by the first underground railway in the world. A start was made on providing housing for the "deserving poor." There were significant advances in medicine, and the Ragged Schools are perhaps the least known of Victorian achievements, in those last decades before universal state education. In 1851 the Great Exhibition managed to astonish almost everyone, attracting exhibitors and visitors from all over the world. But there was also appalling poverty and exploitation, exposed by Henry Mayhew and others. For the laboring classes, pay was pitifully low, the hours long, and job security nonexistent.
Liza Picard shows us the physical reality of daily life in Victorian London. She takes us into schools and prisons, churches and cemeteries. Many practical innovations of the time—flushing lavatories, underground railways, umbrellas, letter boxes, driving on the left—point the way forward. But this was also, at least until the 1850s, a city of cholera outbreaks, transportation to Australia, public executions, and the workhouse, where children could be sold by their parents for as little as £12 and streetpeddlers sold sparrows for a penny, tied by the leg for children to play with. Cruelty and hypocrisy flourished alongside invention, industry, and philanthropy.
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Press
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is detailed, chatty and charming, if coy. It's a bit like reading a good gossip. Popular histories vary greatly in their reliability, documentation and writing style and this is better than many. A reader doesn't expect or want a scholarly tome. But it's frustrating too. Best example, in a section titled "how to be a lady" the author provides an end note to what she calls an amalgam of sources of good advice: "for once I have not studded this account with notes." How unfortunate, since I had turned immediately to the end note to follow up on the amalgam she tantalized me with. I had reached this point in the book having decided to ignore a gratuitous remark a few pages earlier that Karl Marx never applied himself to "the normal expedient of working for a living." However, Marx' prodigious and influential output (whatever one's opinion about it) far exceeds Picard's, admirable & entertaining as many will find it. I have started and stopped reading...
This book is nice for what it is--a survey of Victorians and their city by a nonexpert who nevertheless did very thorough research. If you are not very familiar with the Victorian age, I recommend this book strongly.
Because of the title, I was hoping for an in-depth analysis of LONDON, above all. I wanted descriptions of neighborhoods, of shopping districts, photographs of streetfronts, details of every district, its flavor, and the changes it underwent. The book is nearly useless in that regard.
If you not are wanting compact information about the historical London but rather rather a general book about Victorian attitudes, amusements, and pasttimes with a little dash of infrastructural information, this is a great read. It is a shame that the book's title and blurb do not reflect the content.
Quick note: The author was thrown off my pictures of servant girls in fancy dresses. Early photography studios kept a stock of nice clothes on hand, and...
Liza Pickard is a barrister with a mighty pen. She has authored several books about London. These Include: Life in
Elizabethan London: Restoration London; Dr. Johnson's London
and now this fourth book in the series.
Picard has done her homework: her reading of first person diaries and sources; periodical articles from the age. She includes
excellent secondary sources giving the reader an accurate view of
life when Victoria reigned the British Empire. The little Queen
ruled for 64 years from 1837 to her death in 1901.
Picard's chapters deal with such topics as:
daily life for the poor, middle class and wealthy;
the smells and the sights of London;
male and female fashions;
church life and the judicial system of Victorian England;
Amusements from opera strolling in the park to riding a horse
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