Victorian London

Victorian London : The Life of a City 1840-1870

4.04 (1,229 ratings by Goodreads)
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From rag-gatherers to royalty, from fish knives to Freemasons: everyday life in Victorian London.

Like its acclaimed companion volumes, Elizabeth's London, Restoration London and Dr Johnson's London, this book is the product of the author's passionate interest in the realities of everyday life 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, such as Peter Jones and 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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 496 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 34mm | 340g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • UK ed.
  • 40
  • 0753820900
  • 9780753820902
  • 102,739

Review quote

Her survey of Victorian London is as enjoyably wide-ranging as her previous volumes, and her curiosity about apparent trivia resurrects the realities of the past more successfully than many more solemn works of social and political analysis do. * SUNDAY TIMES (30/7/06) * This is a comprehensive history by anecdote, so the enlightening facts come thick and fast... Picard enforces the idea that history really is all around us. * TELEGRAPH (8/7/06) * A highly readable account of nineteenth-century London... Picard's book is a mine of information told with great enthusiasm and passion. * EXPRESS (7/7/06) * Vividness is the book's aim, and this is achieved splendidly * ECONOMIST * Picard enjoys recounting the gruesome daily mechanics of living in what Cobbett described as "the great wen" -- Tristram Hunt * NEW STATESMAN * Her vivid panorama of London between 1840 and 1870 -- Michael Leapman * INDEPENDENT * A wonderful achievement -- Claire Tomalin This is a comprehensive history by anecdote, so the enlightening facts come thick and fast, from the suggestion that Queen Victoria had a slight German accent to the idea that linoleum is best washed with milk. And while there is certainly no pretence at some grand narrative, there is a genuine sense of time and place. It makes it a book to pick at - where else could one find out about velocipedes, costermongers and the "Monster School"? - but it's also one that adds incalculable depth to a walk round the capital. From houses to cemeteries, Picard enforces the idea that history really is all around us * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH * Liza Picard's Victorian London is a mine of information and very readable -- Tony Benn Thus the book proceeds, by typifying anecdotes, which are well chosen and impeccably annotated, and all linked together by Picard's untroubling, readable prose -- Adam Newey * GUARDIAN * She is an engaging companion, always wondering out loud about the sort of questions which you've asked yourself ... an enjoyable book -- Philip Hensher * SPECTATOR * She cannot be denied her bid for the heavyweight crown. She writes the old history, descriptive and unanalytical, painted in exhilarating colours -- Simon Jenkins * SUNDAY TIMES * The glories of Picard's magpie style are immediately apparent. She paints a picture with deft, sure strokes, then finds the perfect quotation -- Judith Flanders * TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT * Whether she is describing the music halls, such as the Alhambra in Leicester Square, or the criminal underworld, or the foundation of London University, or the lives of the costermongers, or the expansion of the middle-class suburbs, she never loses her eye for the telling detail. Reading her book is like gazing at one of those energetic, crowded canvases by the Victorian painter William Powel Frith, who brought the age to life through a multiplicity of detail -- A. N. Wilson * EVENING STANDARD * This book is a feast of tit-bits, bringing 19th-century London to life piecemeal with the accumulation of facts ... a valuable addition to the literature of London -- Jad Adams * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH * I was delighted, as usual, by Liza Picard's Victorian London, the fourth of her grand series on life in the capital -- Jan Morris * OBSERVER *
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About Liza Picard

Liza Picard was born in 1927. She is the bestselling author an acclaimed series of books on the history of London: Elizabeth's London, Restoration London, Dr Johnson's London and Victorian London. Her most recent book, Chaucer's People, explores the Middle Ages through the lives of the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales.

She read law at the London School of Economics and was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn, but did not practise. She worked for many years in the office of the Solicitor of the Inland Revenue before retiring to become a full-time author. She lives in London.
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Rating details

1,229 ratings
4.04 out of 5 stars
5 33% (411)
4 43% (523)
3 20% (241)
2 3% (42)
1 1% (12)
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