A Brief History of Life in Victorian Britain

  • by Michael Paterson
  • Narrated by Mark Meadows
  • 11 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

How a nation grew into an empire and the birth of a modern society
The Victorian era has dominated the popular imagination like no other period, but these myths and stories also give a very distorted view of the 19th century. The early Victorians were much stranger than we usually imagine, and their world would have felt very different from our own. It was only during the long reign of the Queen that a modern society emerged in unexpected ways.
Using character portraits, events, and key moments, Paterson brings the real life of Victorian Britain alive - from the lifestyles of the aristocrats to the lowest ranks of the London slums. This includes the right way to use a fan, why morning visits were conducted in the afternoon, what the Victorian family ate, and how they enjoyed their free time, as well as the Victorian legacy today: convenience food, coffee bars, window shopping, mass media, and celebrity culture.


What the Critics Say

"Out of the babble of voices, Michael Paterson has been able to extract the essence of London itself. Read this book and re-enter the labyrinth of a now-ancient city." (Peter Ackroyd)


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Brief, But Insightful

The biggest criticism anyone will ever find on a "Brief History Of" book is how much is left out. There are volumes upon volumes of histories of Victorian Britain out there, but this one is a social history. Names, dates, and events are used as touchstones here and nothing more; the real attraction is the Victorian society itself. The etiquette, protocol, fashion, habits, beliefs, attitudes, and lifestyles are put under the spotlight. Everything from bowler hats and hoopskirts to calling cards, curry, technological innovation, and Imperialism are looked at in terms of what it means to have these things as a part of everyday life. The queen herself and her prince consort are given a brief biography with the understanding that their examples set the stage for the transitions that had already begun when Victoria took the throne and seeing them through to the beginnings of the first world war. As an entry point into this era of history, this book is perfect for understanding why things were as they were, and it provides several launching points for further exploration. For those who already have the history under their belts, this book fleshes it all out from a more human perspective than a dry narrative might otherwise provide.

Mark Meadows is a fantastic narrator for this. His easy-going delivery makes this book even easier to connect with, and the result is the brief time you spend will seem even more brief if you're remotely inclined towards the subject matter.
Read full review

- Troy

Very well done!

As brief histories go, this one is extremely well done. Paterson's social history of Queen Victoria's reign is short on generalizations and dense with well-organized and meaty information about everything from architecture and furnishings to food and fashion. He stresses in particular the social revolutions that took place thanks to innovations in transportation and literacy during the Victorian era. Throughout his study, Paterson draws attention to how thoroughly life transformed from the beginning of Victoria's reign to its close, and how this age of intense change (both physical and intellectual) not only set the stage for much of the world we've inherited globally in the twenty-first century, but also marks the experience of that time as one that resembles our own more closely than we might realize.
Read full review

- Amy

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-21-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios