Cover Image: Living in Early Victorian London

Living in Early Victorian London

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A great look at the history of a fascinating time, in a city on the forefront of revolution in industry and thought, but with great disparity between the classes. For a lover of history this book will enthrall.
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A fascinating book looking at living in early Victorian London, from the clothes they wore, the working docks, jobs that were available to the sewage in the streets, and the Thames before sewers were built.  

It's all intermingled with a criminal murder case, which for me at times threw me off the descriptions as it suddenly appeared in the middle of the chapter again - would have preferred those sections to have been in perhaps italics so as not to throw me off my stride.

I received this book from Netgalley for an honest review.
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"Living in Early Victorian London" described life in London between 1837 and the early 1850s. The author started by using journals and articles from the time to describe London, from the docks to the richer areas to the slums. The book was loosely organized around the trial records of a certain murder. Some of the details about dress, food, furnishings, etc. come from court trial records, but also newspaper ads, diaries, and fiction written at the time. The book covered a wide variety of topics and included details about things like how much different jobs might earn compared to how much certain items cost. It covered things like what types of food or housing a poor laborer could afford compared to the middle class, second-hand clothing, sanitary conditions and sickness, the mail system, transportation, education, police, crime, and trials.

It's full of interesting information, but I sometimes felt like I'd need to use a search function to find things in the future since the author tended to jump around within a chapter. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those wanting details about London for novel research or those just plain curious.
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An interesting and detailed book about daily life in the early part of Victorian London, before sewer systems and indoor plumbing, before the tube, before so many things that people today take for granted. It was both fascinating and appalling to read the (very) detailed unsanitary conditions that almost everyone- but especially the poor- lived in and the resulting health issues. But the book covers more than that: the development of the omnibus, the Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace, food, work, the development of middle-class strict morality that now we consider classically "Victorian." 

The author wove through the book the middle-class couple Frederick and Maria Manning, a couple whose belongings we have great details about, and then ends the book with the details of their murder of her friend/lover and how the new detective force used the latest technology to catch them. It was an interesting way to do it and I think generally it worked, although sometimes it seemed a bit stretched, and if you didn't already know their story I can see how it might annoy you. 

Overall you can tell a great deal of research went into this book, but it is presented in a very readable style. Plenty of factoids in here I'm going to wish I could recall off the top of my head later on! I definitely recommend this to people interested in learning about the development of London in the early to middle part of the 1800s.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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Michael Alpert states in the preface to Living in Early Victorian London, “My choice of what to describe about the lives of ordinary lower middle-class Londoners is inevitably arbitrary.” That is completely fair – Professor Alpert is writing the book that he wants to write – but not strictly accurate. The author writes comprehensively about all the aspects of Victorian London life that I’d expect to see in a book like this, covering the period 1837 to the 1850s. That is, from the coronation of Queen Victoria to just before the Crimean War. It covers food and drink; dress; housing; communications (transport, telegraph, post); shopping; education; and many other topics.

Although Charles Dickens is mentioned (and quoted) many times, the author draws upon an impressive variety of sources. Just choosing five pages of the chapter on Communications, for example, we have Dickens, Thackeray (two novels), Punch, Disraeli, Melville, Ventura de la Vega, the Quarterly Review and Thomas Arnold.

Alpert uses Frederick and Maria Manning to illustrate many points. They murdered Patrick O’Connor in 1849 and were caught by Scotland Yard’s use of the telegraph. The reports of the court case inform us about the area in which they lived; their lifestyle; what they ate; and how Maria Manning dressed. Although I must admit to getting a little fed up of the Mannings by the end of the book, as a post-graduate history student, I do admire the way in which the author has used the comprehensive coverage of one event and its background to illustrate so many aspects of Victorian life. I hope I’ll be able to write so skilfully.

Whinges? The chapters are crammed with information and it is a very dense read. Don’t expect to read the whole book in a couple of evenings! Alpert also refers to Euston Square Station (a London Underground station opened in 1863 by the Metropolitan Railway as Gower Street) on two occasions where I think he means Euston Station (a mainline station built by the London and Birmingham railway, later the LNWR). Finally, Alpert mentions the type of beer known as porter and says it was later called stout. I’m not sure that “later called stout” is correct. I believe that some brewers created a stronger version of their normal porters and called it “stout porter” with the “porter” part of the name later being dropped. There was thus a period when stout and porter coexisted as (slightly) different drinks.

I’m not quite sure who the intended audience is for this book. It’s invaluable for a novelist wanted to set a novel in that period but it’s perhaps too dense for a casual reader wanting to get a flavour of Victorian life, while not specialist enough for a historian. I can strongly recommend it to anyone wanting a detailed picture of London life in the 1830s-1850s and who has a long attention span. I would love to see a companion volume covering the same period but focussed upon life outside London.

#LivinginEarlyVictorianLondon #NetGalley
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Great collection of quotes about historical London with context provided. Very interesting to get a glimpse into the past and see what London was like during the Victorian period.
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I liked reading social history book and this one was entertaining and informative. The Early Victorian world was quite bleak for all those who were poor and not the best place for women.
I appreciated the details and I learned a lot.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine
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I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked reading about the details of what it was like to live in Victorian London. I found this very interesting as I read books about that time, but it's fiction so they usually don't have what it was like for the majority of  people in the day to day. There was a good amount of information around food, to which I learned a great deal and many other topics that explain life in early Victorian London. There was so much happening and so much change during the periods talked about in this book; it is so fascinating to see a more in depth look into living at that time. I think fans of history (especially of this specific time period) will enjoy this book if they are looking for a broad overview at life in Victorian times, since this does cover a lot of topics.

Thanks to NetGalley and Pen & Sword History for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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There are two sides to learning about historical eras: events/dates of historical events and then what everyday life was to give a senses of actual life happening around the events and dates. It’s the fascination of the questions of how it actually was compared to how we think it was.

Victorian London is not uncommon of a setting for literature - both historical and speculative fiction set in Victorian-inspired worlds, and so I wasn’t going to bypass the chance to read this book. 

Set in the years between 1837 and early 1850s, it captures the world transitioning to a more modern and industrial society in some ways (railways, telegraph, stamps, anesthesia, modern police force, gas for lighting and cooking, cheap books and newspapers) but in others remaining a dark cesspit of history (cholera outbreaks, lack of sanitation and proper sewer systems, rampant prostitution, workhouses and slums, mistrust of foreigners and other religions). 

Alpert right from the introduction warns the reader that the focus will not be not necessarily comprehensive but rather aimed towards the topics he finds interesting. It’s focused on middle and lower middle class, although extreme poverty is also described. A lot of it touches upon the murder trial of the Manning couple and for many things he uses Charles Dickens as a source. 

“A working man, earning his fifteen shillings to a pound a week in 1841, drank a mere pint of beer a day, but even this cost one shilling and twopence a week. Some families spent over 20 per cent of their income on drink.”

Food is a big topic (oysters were cheap, salads were avoided and sugar and alcohol ran aplenty, and poor people bought more prepared food as they lacked time and facilities for cooking), and so is transportation - from cabbies to omnibuses to eventual railways. Rent was already too expensive (that has not changed much). Cheaper clothes that were not tailor-made but not cast-offs from the rich were entering the scene.

Slums - the “rookeries” with incredible overcrowding and appalling poverty, lack of sanitation and rampant diseases, with sewage running down the middle of the streets and stench filling the areas - were sad reality.

“Unaired rooms, persistent damp, people living hugger-mugger and the lack of washing and drainage facilities encouraged unsanitary habits and made respiratory illness, bronchitis and intestinal infections prevalent. Diarrhoea, frequently stated as the cause of infant death, came from poor food hygiene and the spread of infection from unwashed hands. There were no facilities for handwashing after using the privy, and it is doubtful if people knew that they should do so before touching other people’s food, or putting their fingers into their own mouths. At the same time, the lack of adequate roughage in the diet and the sheer unpleasantness of visiting the privy in the cold and rain led to constipation.”

Cholera was killing left and right until people caught on that excrement does not mix well with drinking water — but even then sanitation measures were met with the same resistance as vaccines are by some today.

“Excrement and urine ran down the gutter in the middle of the street until it was stopped up in a court or an alley. Faeces oozed up through the shallow foundations of houses. The soil of London was sodden with filth.”

Crime led to eventual creation of police force and detectives were added eventually, and played a big part in solving the gruesome murder by the Manning couple — the criminal case which clearly fascinates the author. And gruesome spectacle of public execution as entertainment was still very much present.

But there was also room for fun. Plays and music, and even dancing — even such seeming immodesty as polka. Books and newspapers, panoramas,”exotic” exhibits and the Great Exhibition of 1851 — there was some entertainment to be had.

“Vauxhall Gardens was forced to halve its admission charge. It was certainly going down market, despite its flashy attractions. It had become a magnet for the yob clientele and for young men on the prowl for girls who were happy to be whirled around shrieking in the disreputable new dance, the polka, in which the man, disgracefully, in the eyes of many, held his female partner around her waist.”

It was quite interesting, although at some point I would have been ok not seeing more mentions of the Mannings and Dickens.

3.5-4 stars, rounding up.


Thanks to NetGalley and Pen & Sword History for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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An interesting look into many different aspects of the lives of the "common" people in Early Victorian London.  This includes women's role, what they eat, how it was cooked, entertainment, social classes, transportation, communication, police, and health care among others.  It gives you a real look into one of the most populated cities in the world at that time and not just how everyone lived together but how they lived period.

It is nice to see a history that doesn't just focus on the elite or the middleclass but on the majority of the people and how things were changing in this period.  It includes things that you might not of known where to get the information from before and probably some areas of life you might not have even thought to think about.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I enjoyed this book immensely. Honestly as someone who loves and has read a lot of London history books, I found this one surprising accessible and incredibly readable. Not dry in the slightest! Lots of fun facts and a pretty simple slice out of life for the area and time period.

Honestly the hardest part for me about recommending this will be how specific the topic is. I’d love to read more from this author and maybe see more variety!
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I enjoyed a lot of this. It was a good way to get an overview of how many people experience life during the Victorian period in London. However, this covered a lot of broad parts of life, and some of the subtopics were more interesting to me than others.

Also, Dickens was cited as a source an exceptionally large amount of times. At one point, I did a search on my Kindle for "Dickens," and it appeared over 150 times in this relatively short book. Nothing wrong with that, but I did find it a little amusing. I do wonder how much differently the book would have been if it had been framed as "Living in Charles Dickens' London."

Would recommend if you're interested in a variety of topics about Victorian London or using this as a reference for specific facets of life.
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Starting just after Victoria comes to the throne (1837), through the period of the Crimean War (1853), London grew exponentially as the "Empire on which the sun never set".  The lifeblood of commerce flowed into the docks of the Thames bringing prosperity to the middle class and the rich. London became the largest, richest and most populous World City.

The beginning of the book is very pedestrian as the following subjects are discussed (and make up the titles of the early chapters) a woman's place, what people wore, ate, shopped and where they lived. After a discussion of the lack of health care (diseases were still blamed on 'miasma'), housing and class differences.

Now the story picks up with discussion of the changes to communications with the introduction of train mail, and telegraphs.  With more money and leisure, entertainment became part of everyday life.  With more money in circulation, criminals got more blatant in robbery and theft.  The first modern police force was instituted in 1929 by Robert Peel.  The increase in Policing led to the expansion of trials and court cases, leading to the growth in the use of incarceration or people being transported to Australia.

Well done and documented, a three to the beginning and a 4.5 for the second half.
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This was an amazing look into a often mentioned time in history, the book is fast reading and engaging to both history lovers and the average reader.
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Victorian London was massive, congested and belching with smog, hardly inspiring let alone healthy.  In Living in Early Victorian London author Michael Alpert describes what everyday life was like in the 1840s including distinct social classes, existence in the rookeries, daily chores, mortality, crime, effects of railway links, filth and stench of meat markets, brazen prostitution, privies, mealtime, literacy, "farthing dips", treatment of immigrants, transportation, revolutionary envelopes and stamps paid by the sender and Barnard's Panorama to show news.  Alpert also wrote about the first time public smoking was seen and the railway changing the concept of time.  Food was scarce and utensils were unheard of for many.  If a potato was proffered, how was it cooked without kitchen facilities?  People had to rely on buying cheap meals...if they could. 

Throughout the book wends the true story of a sensational Victorian London crime committed by a lower-middle class couple Frederick and Maria Manning and the London they lived in.  Their murder victim was Patrick O'Connor.  The most interesting aspect of the story to me was how the new telegraph was instrumental in catching and convicting the couple of murder.  I really like how the author incorporated their story.

Not only are descriptions vivid and engrossing but the photographs and illustrations causes the reader to better visualize and empathize with the piteous people who had no hope in a grim time in history.  Charles Dickens and others were not exaggerating bleak living conditions where life was a continuous misery for the poor.  The Crystal Palace must have seemed like a paradise...or a slap in the face.  

True Crime, History and Nonfiction readers, this is for you.  Information is easily read and digested and there is plenty here to learn and mull over.

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword and NetGalley for providing me with an early digital copy of this thoroughly interesting book.
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This was a brilliant book! While there might be plenty to read about the Victorian era and what life was like during that time Alpert takes a unique angle through exploring the time with the famous Manning’s murder case as the backdrop. While the crime doesn’t take centre stage Alport explores the London they lived in, the streets they would have known, the transport that developed and what the lives of everyday people who they lived near would have been like. Using a mixture of primary sources, fiction written at the time and secondary sources the book is brimming with fascinating information and facts. While extremely informative the writing style never becomes dry and academic, instead Alport shows scenes so that the reader easily feels like they too are there witnessing it all. A fantastic book! 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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In the book Living In Early Victorian London by Michael Albert we learn about the Mannings Crime and their victim they buried beneath the flag stone and throughout the book as we learn about how the different classes live the couple who is made reference to an every regard. Even when talking about the financial schemes and buying railroad stock we learn their victim also purchase railroad stock I found this way of telling the story a genius touch. There’s also a lot of references made to the most famous Victorian writers works Charles Dickens I love reading about the Victorian era and although I have read many nonfiction books on the topic I now feel I have a great grasp on the ins and outs of their daily lives. We even get a monetary education on the different names for different amounts of money and OMG is it confusing. I love this book so much will definitely give it five stars and will be looking for other books by the Sauter. Although this is a non-fiction book it is not academic at all it is interesting and a definite page turner. please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review I received this book from NetGalley and pen and sword press but I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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I wanted to like this one but it just didn’t keep me occupied and interested in what I was reading. 

If you like non-fiction and the Victorian era this is a book you may want to check out:
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Wonderful, informative, fascinating, engaging look into life in Victorian times. As a writer of historical fiction, this book will be such an aid! As a lover of history this book is such a joy!
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Living in early Victorian started with a wonderful description of the surroundings and where the boundaries would have been. This was interesting in that it gave context of where they would be located today. There were examples in the early chapters of various people and short snippets of their mistakes and lives. 
As there was no cast of characters to focus on I realised this book wasn't for me, however that is not to say it is not for everyone.
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