Victorian Era Research


My Boom-Boom's mostly gay
Jan 31, 2006
Zoo Atlanta
So, I'm working on a little something. The story's in place, but it's a historical piece, and is going to take place in London during the Victorian Age. I'm having a hell of a time coming up with the proper research. Primarily, I need a good reference that will give a feel for the day-to-day life of the time - particularly focusing on the life of street gangs and political figures of the time.

Could anyone point me in the right direction? ;) Particularly I'm looking at you, Seldes. I know you're the best at this kind of thing.
Start with the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. You can pick up a lot of details from them. Much of it deals with the middle and upper class, but there are some descriptions of life among the poor.

Some other titles to try:

The Way People Live -- Life in Victorian England, by Gwen Remington. This volume covers Victoria's reign, the innovations of the Industrial Revolution, and the impact of the era's many changes on the lives of the people. Chapters address the quality of life for lower, middle, and aristocratic classes at work and at home, from the deplorable state of urban slums to the extravagant dinner parties of the upper crust. Additional topics include education reform, social life and courtship, leisure activities (particularly literature), and religion. Plentiful sidebars offer information on Diseases of the Slums, Tying the Knot, and The Rituals of Death. The black-and-white illustrations, maps, and photographs that appear on almost every spread make potentially dry content more accessible to visual learners.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, by Daniel Poole. This guide to daily life in 19th-century England is a welcome companion for readers of Austin, the Brontes, Dickens, and Trollope. The first section is a collection of engrossing short chapters on various aspects of British life, including clothing, etiquette, marriage, money, occupations, society, and transportation. For example, customs now lost but very much practiced at the time were primogeniture, which ensured that the great family houses would not be split up, and the avoidance of eating cheese by the middle class, who considered it a food for the poor. The second part of the book is a glossary of commonly used words or phrases that may be unfamiliar to the modern reader; for instance, tar was a colloquial name for a sailor.

English Society in the Eighteenth Century, by Roy Porter. This is a portrait of 18th century England, from its princes to its paupers, from its metropolis to its smallest hamlet. The topics covered include - diet, housing, prisons, rural festivals, bordellos, plays, paintings, and work and wages.

The Regency Underworld, by Donald A. Low. Alongside the world of Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair, Byron, Keats, Constable and Nash, there also existed a pulsating underworld where crime and vice of every kind flourished. Venture into this forgotten world, and discover a fascinating place filled with pleasure-seekers, criminals and body snatchers at work.

London's Underworld: Three Centuries of Vice and Crime, by Fergus Linnane. London's Underworld is the superbly evocative survey of 300 years of organised crime in the capital. Full of vivid detail and characters, it is an examination of the underside of the world s richest city as it evolved from the extreme violence of the early eighteenth century to the vastly more complex and lucrative, but no less violent, gangland of today. Fergus Linnane takes us on the nightmarish last journeys of condemned criminals to execution. We follow the ingenious criminals who carried out the first great train robbery in 1854 and the gang that robbed the Bank of England. We enter death-trap eighteenth century prisons, described as a prototype of hell. We walk the crowded streets of Victorian London with its swarms of prostitutes, its magsmen and garrotters. We enter low drinking dens where prostitutes and their murderous accomplices practise their arts. We see the rise and fall of the interwar racecourse gangs and the battle for control of the West End, which bequeathed us much of the structure of present-day gangland. This story has the power to disturb and even disgust, but it is endlessly fascinating.

The Jane Austen book is actually in my library, so I can skim through it tomorrow. I can also get the Regency Underworld, but that will take a few days.
You know everytime I see this thread I read it as Victorian Era Rorsach. Hurm.
Having looked through What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, I think if you can pick this up at a library or otherwise borrow it, there are a few sections worth reading over. The general section on Currancy (unless you know the difference between shillings, sixpence, pounds, groats and tuppennies) has at least the basics. There are also sections on orphans, workhouses, occupations, and diseases that you might find useful. The glossary in the back is worth a look. I wouldn't suggest buying this, since a lot of it deals with the upper class and life in the country, which I don't think are going to do you much good.

Oh, and read Charles Dickens, if you haven't already. :)

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