The Steampunk Doctor: Practicing Medicine in a Victorian Mechanical Age

Steampunk examines the consequences extraordinary medical discoveries can have on both individuals and societies. Abstract Influenced by both 19th-century literature and popular representations of science, the figure of the medical doctor in steampunk fiction is marked by ambiguity. At the same time a scientist, a wizard and a mechanic, the steampunk doctor exists halfway between[…]

Clinical Photography in the Victorian Era

The images serve as a testament to how clinical photography practice has changed as a result of training and professional registration. Introduction Before the profession of clinical photography, photographs of patients were taken by technicians, enthused clinicians and portrait photographers, the practice was unsophisticated, albeit by today’s standards, and results were often a bizarre hybrid[…]

Gender Roles in 19th-Century Victorian Patriarchy

From marriage and sexuality to education and rights, looking at attitudes towards gender in 19th-century Britain. Introduction During the Victorian period men and women’s roles became more sharply defined than at any time in history. In earlier centuries it had been usual for women to work alongside husbands and brothers in the family business. Living[…]

Masculine Ideals of Dress in the Nineteenth Century

During the nineteenth century, the dress of men differed markedly from that of the previous century. Introduction While the skill of a portrait artist is often judged by whether or not the work resembles the sitter, a portrait may also reveal something about the sitter as well as fashionable norms of the time. What does[…]

Drinking in Victorian and Edwardian Britain

People drank for many different reasons and these reasons ranged across social class, gender, and region. Introduction This offers different and sometimes contrasting perspectives on the reasons why alcohol was consumed and on the drinking cultures that emerged from the Victorian period. Alcohol played a key role in the everyday lives of men and women[…]

Views of the Drunkard in Victorian England

Ideas about the drunkard fueled political and moral debates about the extent of liquor controls. Introduction This contains four parts that consider the way that Victorian alcohol consumers were imagined and represented in political discourse. The chapters draw upon the rich, qualitative and quantitative data found in the various parliamentary enquiries on alcohol that took[…]

The Limits of Victorian Federalism

English writers found federalism attractive because it seemed a solution to the problems posed by Europe’s emerging nationalities. Abstract In 1863, Edward Augustus Freeman published the first volume of his History of Federal Government, a study of ancient Greek federalism under the Achaean League. Though unknown today, Freeman was the most enthusiastic advocate of the[…]

Mid-Victorians and Their Food

Improved agricultural output and a political climate dedicated to ensuring cheap food led to a dramatic increase in the production of affordable foodstuffs. Introduction The mid-Victorian period is usually defined as the years between 1850 and 1870, but in nutritional terms we have identified a slightly longer period, lasting until around 1880. During these 30[…]

Victorians and the Hidden Self: Cultural Contexts for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’

How did writers and audiences in late Victorian England and America explore the idea of a hidden or double self? Introduction Why was the idea of a hidden or double self so appealing to writers and readers of the late Victorian period? Two of the most powerful and controversial English novels of the time are[…]

Masters of Healing: Cocaine and Victorian Medicine

The relationship between cocaine and medical practitioners in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain. Introduction Cocaine is often understood as one of a number of potentially addictive substances to which Victorian physicians and surgeons were regularly exposed, and tempted to indulge in. However, while cocaine has frequently been associated with discourses of addiction, this article[…]

Exporting Animals in the Victorian Era

Acclimatization societies believed that animals could fill the gaps of a deficient environment. Introduction In 1890, a New York bird enthusiast released several dozen starlings in Central Park. No one knows for sure why Eugene Schieffelin set the birds aloft, but he may have been motivated by a sentimental desire to make the American Northeast[…]

On Young England: A Parliamentary Movement in the 1840s Taking on Class

They were appalled at the state of party politics, class conflict, and the economic and moral condition of Victorian England’s poor. Young England was the name of a short-lived social and political movement that developed from the altruistic ideas of a small parliamentary ginger group within the Conservative Party in the 1840s. The name, coined by[…]

The Nichols Family and Their Press: The Antiquarian Community in Victorian England

Looking at of the Gentleman’s Magazine, printers of county histories, collectors of manuscripts, and founder members of historical societies. John Nichols: Printer and Antiquary For three generations the Nichols family was central to topographical research and publication. Julian Pooley explores how as editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine, printers of county histories, collectors of manuscripts and[…]

Livingstone’s Travels: The Role of Print and Publication in Fostering the Fame of 19th-Century Explorers

Using Livingstone’s Missionary Travels as a case study to explore the role of print and publishers in fostering the fame of nineteenth-century explorers. By Dr. Louise C. HendersonFormer Professor of GeographyRoyal Holloway, University of London Introduction Many nineteenth-century explorers were celebrities. Whether this fame came from their accomplishments in geography, science, or missionary work, explorers[…]

Women on the River and the Railway in Victorian England

The impact of the early railway was registered as both exciting and horrifyingly destructive by Victorian writers. The opening of the first direct railway line from London to the Kent coast in 1862 challenged traditional dichotomies between town and country, and contributed to a growing nostalgia associated with the river. Fin-de-siècle writers used the apparent[…]

The Female World of Love and Larceny in the Eighteenth Century

Men were transient figures (and often dupes) of light-fingered sex workers, but women’s relationships with each other were often more enduring. I was recently delighted to learn of the return of the period drama Harlots for a third season. The television series set in rival eighteenth-century London brothels is good viewing, even if its portrait[…]

Victorian Penny Dreadfuls

Examining what made these cheap, sensational, highly illustrated stories so popular with the Victorian public. By Judith FlandersHistorian Introduction In the 1830s, increasing literacy and improving technology saw a boom in cheap fiction for the working classes. ‘Penny bloods’ was the original name for the booklets that, in the 1860s, were renamed penny dreadfuls and[…]

John Ruskin Taught Victorian Readers and Travelers the Art of Cultivation

He was refined, very famous, and eccentric. Near the dawn of the twentieth century, a young Englishwoman named Lucy is visiting an ancient church in Florence, unsure of what she is looking at, or how, exactly, to see it. She doesn’t have her Baedeker, a popular travel guide, and is feeling lost without it. “She[…]

Livingstone’s Posthumous Reputation

The shaping and reshaping of Livingstone’s legacy as an icon of the British Empire. This essay examines David Livingstone’s posthumous reputation, focusing on his status as an icon of the British Empire. It overviews the numerous biographies that have taken him as their subject and explores the changing ways in which Livingstone was represented as[…]

Victorian Print Culture

In the 19th century, more people were reading more publications than ever before. This explains how technological, social and educational change made this possible. Introduction The 19th century saw a massive expansion of the printed word. The sheer volume and diversity of printed matter was unprecedented: from moral and instructional works to crime novels and[…]

Victorian Readers

Exploring the way Victorians bought, borrowed and read their books, and the impact of the popular literature of the period. Introduction Victorians were great readers of the novel, and the number of novels available for them to read increased enormously during Victoria’s reign. The activity of reading benefited hugely from wider schooling and increased literacy[…]

Spiritualism, Religion, and Mathematics in the Victorian Period

Many were conflicted between their desire to believe and their want of rigorous intellectual explanation, and material proof for their belief. By Sylvia Nickerson Late nineteenth-century British culture was somewhat preoccupied with the presence of ghosts. Conjuring spirits at séances was a popular pastime, with the exploits of some spiritualists, such as the medium Henry[…]

The Journalist Who Exposed Sex Trafficking in Victorian London

W.T. Stead’s 1885 account of the process by which wealthy Londoners procured teenagers for sex became a global news story, but the police refused to investigate. Wealthy men soliciting underage girls for sex. Girls lured to expensive homes by promises of good-paying jobs. Captains of commerce and heads of state reveling in debauchery. Officials looking[…]

Victorian Biological Research in Western Equatorial Africa

By midcentury, Victorian natural historians seemed hungry for information from formerly inaccessible regions of Africa. With a groan that had something terribly human in it and yet was full of brutishness, he fell forward on his face. The body shook convulsively for a few minutes, the limbs moved about in a struggling way, and then[…]

The Celebration of Nature in Victorian Poetry

The pervading strength and influence of Christianity becomes apparent in the abundance of religious poetry created during the Victorian period. Introduction Despite the publication of Darwin’s radical text On the Origin of Species  (1859),which promoted a theory of evolution that directly threatened the authority of Genesis, the pervading strength and influence of Christianity becomes apparent in[…]

On the Ceylon National Review, 1906-1911

Exploring rich and surprising form of Ceylonese nationalism inflected by late-Victorian radicalism. The Ceylon National Review (1906-1911) was the official organ of the Ceylon Social Reform Society, an organization founded by the art historian Ananda Coomaraswamy in an effort to combat colonial influence and reinvigorate Ceylonese cultural production. Coomaraswamy also served as an editor at the Ceylon[…]

European Explorations in the 18th and 19th Centuries

An introduction to the development, sponsorship, and goals of European expeditions from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. By Christopher Lawrence Introduction In David Livingstone’s overland expeditions in Africa, as in most nineteenth-century expeditions, science and medicine played a key role in geographic exploration. In fact, many expeditions deliberately set out to acquire new scientific[…]