Victorian England/Europe book recommendations
June 15, 2014 5:39 PM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations of books exploring the culture and society of Victorian England/Europe. A few snowflakes inside...

Non-fiction preferred, although historical fiction (i.e., Devil in the White City) will also be welcomed. I've been reading Barbara Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror," and would prefer something in that vein. Bonus: best book on Jack the Ripper.
posted by kuanes to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
It's hard to beat Three Men in a Boat for one Victorian's fun-poking at the period.
posted by colin_l at 5:42 PM on June 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 'The Victorian Underworld' is one of the more fun and eyeopening studies of a subculture of Victorian England that I've found. It's a book I dip in and out of all the time. Henry Mahew is a must if you're interested in the conditions of the working class, I think. I also recommend Hobsbawm's 'The Age of Revolution' and the 'Age of Capital', which cover the Victorian period and before. And the collection of essays in 'The Invention of Tradition' are classics; not all Victorian but they are totally fascinating for showing how the Victorian era invented some things that we think of as stretching back much further.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:07 PM on June 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Since you want Europe and not just England, what about Schnitzler's Century, by Peter Gay?
posted by mittens at 6:10 PM on June 15, 2014

Best answer: And Matthew Sweet's "Inventing The Victorians" makes a nice companion to "The Victorian Underworld," I think.
posted by mittens at 6:12 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime
posted by Ideefixe at 6:23 PM on June 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Last time I checked, the current standards for Ripperology are by Paul Begg and Donald Rumbelow.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:22 PM on June 15, 2014

Aha! I just trawled through all of my Amazon reviews to find you Daily Life in Victorian London : An Extraordinary Anthology. It is genuinely extraordinary, with primary source ads and newspaper cuttings and snippets of letters and journal that make Victorian London burst into vivid reality. It's just marvellous. If you don't have a Kindle, you can read in your browser or on a tablet or phone.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:46 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The author of The Invention of Murder also has another book called Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England.
posted by immlass at 7:53 PM on June 15, 2014

God's Funeral: the Victorian crisis of belief.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:29 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Ghost Map: A Street, an Epidemic and the Hidden Power of Urban Networks. A very localised cholera epidemic broke out in Soho, central London in 1854. This set in motion a dogged investigation by a doctor to ascertain the source of the cholera and how it spread. The resulting discovery soon came to influence public health and the construction of improved sanitation facilities in Victorian London, and around the world. The book is a real page turner.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:49 PM on June 15, 2014

If you're interested in Victorian Spiritualism and crime you could have a go at Affinity by Sarah Waters. Bonus: lgbt friendly.
posted by glasseyes at 2:05 AM on June 16, 2014

Molly Hughes' A London Family trilogy describes things from a middle class London point of view. Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford (please ignore the inane BBC production) describes life in a small English country village where everybody is hard up.
posted by JanetLand at 4:59 AM on June 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks to all. Now I've got some beach reading!
posted by kuanes at 5:44 AM on June 16, 2014

What Jane Austen Ate And Charles Dickens Knew is great for filling in lots of gaps in day-to-day familiarity that authors of the time assumed for their audiences, but which most readers have lost track of through the intervening years of cultural change. It's very good for picking up and browsing at random, as I recall.
posted by Lou Stuells at 5:47 AM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

London Labour and The London Poor by Henry Mayhew is perhaps the definitive account of London's working classes, its written by a middle class journalist so certainly has its biases, but also fantastic in capturing the voices and experiences and attitudes of the people he talks to and their role in the economic and social life of the capital, as well as the scale and diversity of London. Its an amazing book and written by a journalist reads far quicker than you'd imagine given the size of the book and the information it imparts. Can you tell I'm a fan?
posted by Middlemarch at 9:26 AM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just to point out a picky point--Devil in the White City is non-fiction. Every bit is corroborated with archival evidence, and Larson was able to string the facts together to make a coherent story. Which, IMHO, makes it all the more fascinating and impressive.

That said, I have really enjoyed picking up To Marry an English Lord from time to time. Easy and titillating.
posted by magdalemon at 7:29 AM on June 17, 2014

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