VICTORIAN BRITAIN 2000-2001
A NOTE ON TEXTBOOKS
There are numerous textbooks covering the Victorian period. They are, essentially, for introductory and background reading, and should be used for that, and not as a substitute for more detailed monographs and articles. What follows is a selection, and includes some negative as well as positive recommendations!
The most recent general survey of the period is W.D.Rubinsteinís Britainís Century; A Political and Social History 1815-1905. Also recent is Norman McCord's British History, 1815-1906, which (written as it is by the former Professor of History at Newcastle, and a recent external examiner for this course!) contains many local examples. The two volumes of the Arnold History of England that cover the period, viz: N.Gash, Aristocracy and People, 1815-1865; and E.J.Feuchtwanger, Democracy and Empire, 1865-1914 are strongly recommended. A parallel, alternative view may be found in J.F.C.Harrison, The Early Victorians, 1832-51; G.F.A.Best, Mid-Victorian Britain, 1851-1875; J.F.C.Harrison, Late Victorian Britain, 1875-1901; T.R.Gourvish and A.O'Day (eds.) Later Victorian Britain, 1868-1900; and R.R.James, The British Revolution; British Politics 1880-1939. The following general accounts may also be recommended: A.Briggs, The Age of Improvement [c. 1780-1867]; D.E.D.Beales, From Castlereagh to Gladstone, 1815-1885; D.Read, England, 1868-1914; E.J.Evans, The Forging of the Modern State, 1783-1970; R.Shannon, The Crisis of Imperialism, 1868-1914. Excellent summary essays on various aspects (for those more familiar with the period) can be found in Colin Matthew (ed.) The Nineteenth Century; the British Isles 1815-1901. K.Robbins' Nineteenth Century Britain; England, Scotland, and Wales approaches the period from a less Anglo-centric point of view than usual.
The one published volume for the period in the New Oxford History of England series is unreservedly recommended, i.e. K.T.Hoppenís The Mid-Victorian Generation, 1846-1886. The relevant volumes of the [old] Oxford History of England (those by Woodward and Ensor) should NOT be relied upon; they are badly out of date and are currently being revised. E.Halévy's A History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century is also out of date, but contains occasional insights. G.S.R.Kitson Clark's The Making of Victorian England, and G.M.Young's seminal Victorian England -- Portrait of an Age, are idiosyncratic, but have their uses.
H.J.Hanham, The Nineteenth Century Constitution, is a collection of useful documents; it has succinct and valuable introductions.
H.Perkin, The Origins of Modern English Society, 1780-1880, is excellent; F.M.L.Thompson, The Rise of Respectable Society; A Social History of Victorian Britain provides an alternative, more recent view. The relevant parts of Thompson's The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950 may also be useful. Thompson's English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century is recommended, as are S.G.Checkland, The Rise of Industrial Society in England, 1815-1885; and R.Flood and D.McCloskey (eds.) An Economic History of Britain since 1700 (2 vols).
On Scotland, see S. & O. Checkland, Industry & Ethos, Scotland 1832-1914, and W.H.Fraser and R.J.Morris (eds.) People and Society in Scotland, 1830-1914. A Political History of Scotland 1832-1924 by I.C.G.Hutchinson assumes a reasonable knowledge of the subject, but is excellent. On Ireland, see D.G.Boyce, Nineteenth Century Ireland and F.S.L.Lyons' excellent book Ireland Since the Famine. For Wales, see D.G.Evans, A History of Wales 1815-1906 and K.O.Morgan, Wales in British Politics, 1868-1922. For the integration of the United Kingdom see K. Robbins, Nineteenth Century Britian; Integration or Diversity? reprinted as Nineteenth Century Britian; England, Scotland and Wales; the Making of a Nation; and also Robbins' Great Britain; Identities, Institutions, and the Idea of Britishness.
On the arts, the two relevant volumes of The Cambridge History of the Arts in Britain, volume 6, Romantics to Early Victorians, and volume 7, The Later Victorian Age, both edited by Boris Ford, make a useful starting point. Cf. also Hoppenís Mid-Victorian Generation [loc. cit.]
Not a textbook, but the best book for conveying the sound and smell of Victorian England, is N.Gash's Robert Surtees and Early Victorian Society. You can (if you must) skip the bits on Surtees!
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