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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a manuscript must be in want of reference materials.
February 16, 2009 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Can you please recommend some books on daily life, home life, and general society in the UK and the US in the 1840s - 1880s for me? I already have What Jane Austen Ate, and What Charles Dickens Knew and An Elegant Madness. It doesn't have to be specifically on daily life- creative nonfiction like Larson's The Devil in the White City or Johnson's The Ghost Map are awesome, too.
posted by headspace to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
The complete text of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

I got it via this thread, which might have more information of interest.
posted by Flunkie at 10:05 AM on February 16, 2009


Karen Abbott's Sin in the Second City.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:26 AM on February 16, 2009


Foodwise:
America's Founding Food was a pretty bitchin' history of New England cooking, from first European settlement through to the present day. So it does cover your time period, and a lot of it deals with American adjustments from landmeat to fish, from wheat to corn, and other changes from Old England to New England cuisine. It also references a whole lot of nineteenth-century cookbooks in its bibliography.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:53 AM on February 16, 2009


Judith Flanders' Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain is full of good stuff, though it covers a slightly wider time period than you're after.

Liza Picard's Victorian London is quite fun and has a lot of different everyday-life-y bits and pieces; focused on London but with a lot of more general information as well. More a browsing book than a read-straight-through though.

Kate Colquohoun's A Thing in Disguise is great, a biography of gardener Joseph Paxton which takes in the gardening styles, landscaping fashions, public works, politics, finance and ambitions of the era, extremely readably.
posted by severalbees at 11:02 AM on February 16, 2009


And oh, Tom Standage's lovely The Victorian Internet, about telegraphy but touching on an awful lot of other everyday-life stuff along the way.
posted by severalbees at 11:05 AM on February 16, 2009


Another Judith Flanders: The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed.
posted by paduasoy at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2009


The Making of the English Working Class, which we had to read in grad school (and which I was sulky and resentful about at the time but plan to re-read eventually). It's a classic, and it will give you some good background for the class-focused stuff in much of the literature related to this era.

(BTW, your title line is hilarious -- It is a truth... indeed!)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:06 PM on February 16, 2009


Seconding Mrs. Beeton!! Also, Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, although fictional, has a wealth of intimate detail concerning day-to-day household management in small-town England.
posted by Bardolph at 12:27 PM on February 16, 2009


Jane H Hunter, How Young Ladies Became Girls: The Victorian Origins of American Girlhood - fascinating book about growing up in the middle and later nineteenth century, lots of stuff about emotions, freedom, school and chores.
posted by paduasoy at 12:27 PM on February 16, 2009


Another vote here for The Victorian House. It is absolutely wonderful. I like all Liza Picard's London books too.

I also enjoyed Inventing the Victorians, although it's less general and more focused on mythbusting some specific aspects of Victorian society. It has some really interesting stuff on entertainment, advertising and sexuality in the era.
posted by andraste at 2:16 PM on February 16, 2009


And for a UK counterpart to Greg Nog's suggestion, might I suggest Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking? Much wider than the period you're looking at, but in covering cooking it has a lot of detail about daily domestic life including servants and kitchen fitout.
posted by andraste at 2:21 PM on February 16, 2009


While not specifically restricted to the range of time you request, a fascinating book worth reading (and making not of here for future AskMeFi readers) is Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness.

The book covers life in America in the 18th and 19th centuries and the the transformation of Americans from occasional bathers to a nation obsessed with sanitizing every surface in sight. Obviously women in the domestic sphere had a huge hand in this transformation. Fascinating reading.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 7:34 PM on February 16, 2009


You guys are *so* awesome. My library and wishlist is getting fatter by the moment, thank you so much.
posted by headspace at 6:49 AM on February 17, 2009


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