Saturday 12 March 2016

Book Review: Victorian London - The Tale of a City 1840-1870 by Liza Picard

Title: Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840 -1870
Author: Liza Picard
Publisher: Phoenix House
Publication Date: 2006 (2005) 
Pages: 496
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction / History
Source: Bought Copy

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Like her previous books, this book is the product of the author's passionate interest in the realities of everyday life - and the conditions in which most people lived - so often left out of history books.

This period of mid-Victorian London covers a huge span: Victoria's wedding and the place of the royals in popular esteem; how the very poor lived, the underworld, prostitution, crime, prisons and transportation; the public utilities - Bazalgette on sewers and road design, Chadwick on pollution and sanitation; private charities - Peabody, Burdett Coutts - and workhouses; new terraced housing and transport, trains, omnibuses and the Underground; furniture and decor; families and the position of women; the prosperous middle classes and their new shops, e.g. Peter Jones, Harrods; entertaining and servants, food and drink; unlimited liability and bankruptcy; the rich, the marriage market, taxes and anti-semitism; the Empire, recruitment and press-gangs.

The period begins with the closing of the Fleet and Marshalsea prisons and ends with the first (steam-operated) Underground trains and the first Gilbert & Sullivan. (Goodreads Synopsis)

I bought this book for research purposes since I am currently writing a story set in London 1862. I found it very useful for that purpose and also enjoyed it as a delightful snapshot of an era. Chapters are organised not by date but by subject matter, which is either good or bad depending on your needs. While it was hard for me to check a particular year, if I want to go back and confirm something about, say, houses at the time, I know I only have to review one chapter. The prose was readable and engaging and I appreciated Liza's little asides and comments. Victorian London is a worthy addition to any library/collection about the Victoria era.


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