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Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840--1870 Paperback – February 20, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Picard (Elizabeth's London) opens this entertaining study of London's modern transformation with the exemplary tale of engineering genius Joseph Bazalgette's new sewer complex, which relieved the city's stink from overflowing cesspits. She goes on to show how the rise of railways transformed Victorian urban planning, spurring the growth of commuter suburbs. Touching on philanthropic initiatives in public housing, Picard also describes the architectural quirks of the typical Victorian middle-class terraced house and the everyday workings of the city's police, fire, water, gas and refuse services. Picard uses the material details of working, middle and upper classes to tell the story of Victorian class difference, dwelling on the hardships of the domestic servant and the intricacies of some of London's more successful trades, from tanning to piano manufacture to sugar refining. She also provides a fascinating history of London hospitals and medical schools. Although Picard depends heavily on the writings of Jane Carlyle (wife of Thomas Carlyle) and the chronicler of Victorian poverty Thomas Mayhew, Picard's use of servant diaries, the journals of visiting French tourists and contemporary advice manuals is effective and often humorous. Arch and conversational in tone, Picard's history is an informative treat. 32 pages of color photos. (Apr. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The author freezes a three-decade time frame to capture the essence--literally, the sights, sounds, and odors--of the British capital at the height of the Victorian era. Picard's systematic examination offers both detail and insight into conditions of life, from all walks of life, as she presents an account at once greatly factual and highly atmospheric. The format is logical and the material easy to follow, with chapters ranging in topic from "Smells" (to really appreciate London back then, the author instructs the reader to "think of the worst smell you have ever met"), "The Streets," "Destitution and Poverty," "Upper Classes and Royalty," "Health," "Education," and "Religion." Not for casual browsers but for serious and well-versed readers seeking to stoke their interest in learning more about the city that, at the time, was the world's capital. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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 so what a lower-middle to low class person is wearing in a photography studio picture shouldn't be thought to be representative of what they actually owned.
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
on Rotten Row.
Household appliances and the chores of childrearing;
Disease and Death traditions. Medicine made progress.
the growth of the railroads and road construction;
the Great Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851;
Education expanding its opportunities through Ragged Schools
and church schools.
There are many other topics but you get the idea. The book is
not thrilling but it is essential to a student of English history or literature who wants to sample life for the average
Londoner living from 1840-1870.
This book is an encyclopedia of life in London, informative.
Picard's research is excellent, and she has the ability to make even a discussion of sewer systems interesting. The primary focus is on the middle to lower classes -- if you are looking for stories about the haute bourgeoisie and the aristocrats and how they lived, this is not the book.
A great introduction to Victorian London.