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Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London Hardcover – October 11, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0300085051 ISBN-10: 0300085052

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Editorial Reviews


"An intriguing study of London at the crossroads of modern history . . . . A well-researched and insightful tome" -- Rebecca Ittner, Victorian Homes

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In this fascinating and innovative look at nineteenth-century London, Lynda Nead offers a new account of modernity and metropolitan life. She charts the relationship between London's formation into a modern organized city in the 1860s and the emergence of new types of production and consumption of visual culture. She considers the role visual images played in the creation of a vibrant and diverse urban culture and how new kinds of publics were created for these representations. Shifting the focus of the history of modernity from Paris to London, Nead here argues for a different understanding of gender and public space in a society where women joined the everyday life of city streets and entered the debates concerning morality, spectacle, and adventure.The book draws on texts and images of many kinds-including acts of Parliament, literature, newspaper reports, private letters, maps, paintings, advertisements, posters, and banned obscene publications. Taking a highly interdisciplinary approach, Nead explores such intriguing topics as the efforts of urban improvers to move water, air, traffic, goods, and people in the Victorian metropolis; the impact of gas lighting and glass on urban leisure; and the obscenity legislation that emerged in response to new forms of visual mass culture that were perceived as dangerous and pervasive.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300085052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300085051
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 8.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,746,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Second Empire Paris proclaimed itself Europe's first modern city, extensively rebuilt by the autocratic remodeling of Napoleon III. Londoners, however, had to achieve the monumental changes of the middle of the nineteenth century in bits and pieces by cooperation with various authorities rather than an imposition by a dictator. Certainly, the modernization of London in the mid-nineteenth century produced a city that was greatly different form Paris, according to _Victorian Babylon: People, Streets, and Images in 19th Century London_ (Yale University Press) by Lynda Nead. Nead is a professor of art history, and her well-illustrated book explains the changes in the city and the society from around 1850 to 1880. "London's municipal government emerged out of a fog of local hostility and resistance," Nead writes.
Nead details the changes that came to the city because of its huge sewer system, or the installation of gas lighting. For instance, gas made night shopping and strolling possible, and enabled men and women to dance, drink, and generally be naughty at the Cremorne Pleasure Gardens. The moralists of the time fought against Cremorne's various licenses, and eventually it went under, but not before inspiring Whistler's famous _Nocturne in Black and Gold_ which led to his lawsuit against Ruskin. The moralists were in further quandary over Holywell Street, the history of which is the most engaging part of the book. It was the home of pornographers who put their wares in the windows, hazarding youth and especially (according to the view of the time) women, who loved bright colors.
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