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EARLY VICTORIAN BRITAIN: 1832-51

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EARLY VICTORIAN BRITAIN: 1832-51

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    Available in PDF Format | EARLY VICTORIAN BRITAIN: 1832-51.pdf | English
    J. F. C. Harrison(Author)
In this fascinating and well researched work of the history of the heyday of Victorian British society, Harrison seamlessly weaves together the overlapping developments in politics, economy, social and culture.

3.4 (6117)
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Book details

  • PDF | 192 pages
  • J. F. C. Harrison(Author)
  • Harper Perennial (1 July 2008)
  • English
  • 6
  • History
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Review Text

  • By Nicholas Shorthose on 7 March 2017

    An insightful well structured and evidenced history , accessible to the non academic reader

  • By T. T. Rogers: Meta-reviewing on 8 June 2014

    J. F. C. Harrison's 'Early Victorian Britain, 1832-51' is a social history of nineteenth century Britain. It's an interesting era to study and read about because when looked-at from the comfort of distance, Victorian society broadly seems to resemble society today in its form and shape and yet when that same society is placed under the microscope of the skilled historian, you immediately see how it was quite different and alien in almost every respect. This telescopic contrast between the canny and the uncanny, the way in which the Victorians were broadly like us and are an extension of us, but at the same time so very different, allows the inquisitive and alert reader significant creative scope in looking at history from different angles and perspectives and, most interestingly, finding new links and connections between the past, present and indeed, future. That's why I love history so much - it's a relevant and exciting subject, and one almost feels like an explorer.I think the author puts it best in the Introduction: [quote] "One of the purposes of this book is to convey a sense of the problems which face the social historian, to enable the reader to glimpse some of the difficulties as well as the intellectual excitement in recreating and analysing a past society." [unquote] I have to compliment the author on this book and its enervating effect. History can come alive if it is written well. The nineteenth century can have a reputation in some quarters as being a rather dusty and dry area of history, due to its technical aspects - i.e. the study of industrialism and economic and financial dimensions. That is not the case with this book. The author manages to put across the key ideas of the time in a very interesting and contextualised way.This book is part of a trilogy, the other two books covering, successively, mid-Victorian and Late Victorian periods. The Early Victorian period is, arguably, the most interesting as this was the transition from an essentially agricultural, rural and agrarian society to a new era that was industrial, urban and significantly mechanised. Although this book is only a general introduction to the period, and clearly cannot possibly cover all the main issues, there are some good sections on topics such as Malthusianism, conditions for the labouring poor, the factory system, industrial infrastructure (mainly discussion of railways), the English gentry, artisan culture, and Chartism. One major omission is that there is nothing on Scotland or Wales, only fleeting references to Ireland. This is really an 'English' history. Also, the discussion on Irish immigrants, while extensive, are of fairly superficial value and - no doubt due to the need for brevity - Harrison leaves out some key points about the Irish social trajectory in Great Britain, especially in the north of England and Scotland. However, given this is an introductory text, I would consider these to be excusable limitations, if not inevitable.The discussions on Chartism, which are late in the book, are especially good. I am embarrassed to admit that I had largely forgotten most of what I had learnt on Chartism and had allowed the ignorant idea to form in my head that it was largely a movement of middle-class radicals. This is not true - in fact, Chartism was a hugely significant revolutionary movement of working class people that could have toppled governments, and almost did, on two occasions, in 18 and 1848 respectively. This is not something most people are aware of - perhaps for obvious reasons, in that one must ask: if it could happen (or almost happen) then, well why not now?What I took away from Harrison's analysis is the sense in which working people and the labouring poor managed to create and sustain their own independent, indigenous culture and Harrison touches on some of the reasons for this. However, Harrison's main focus when discussing culture is on the middling classes - i.e. the artisans (the labour aristocracy) and the lower middle-class. It would be interesting to read more about distinctive culture among the labouring poor and also the real extent of revolutionary politics among the labouring poor and emerging working class during this period. Those are of course specialist subjects, but this book is a good introduction to the social and political issues facing working people during a crucial era of our shared history.

  • By T. T. Rogers: Meta-revisionism on 30 October 2013

    J. F. C. Harrison's 'Early Victorian Britain, 1832-51' is a social history of nineteenth century Britain. It's an interesting era to study and read about because when looked-at from the comfort of distance, Victorian society broadly seems to resemble society today in its form and shape and yet when that same society is placed under the microscope of the skilled historian, you immediately see how it was quite different and alien in almost every respect. This telescopic contrast between the canny and the uncanny, the way in which the Victorians were broadly like us and are an extension of us, but at the same time so very different, allows the inquisitive and alert reader significant creative scope in looking at history from different angles and perspectives and, most interestingly, finding new links and connections between the past, present and indeed, future. That's why I love history so much - it's a relevant and exciting subject, and one almost feels like an explorer.I think the author puts it best in the Introduction: [quote] "One of the purposes of this book is to convey a sense of the problems which face the social historian, to enable the reader to glimpse some of the difficulties as well as the intellectual excitement in recreating and analysing a past society." [unquote] I have to compliment the author on this book and its enervating effect. History can come alive if it is written well. The nineteenth century can have a reputation in some quarters as being a rather dusty and dry area of history, due to its technical aspects - i.e. the study of industrialism and economic and financial dimensions. That is not the case with this book. The author manages to put across the key ideas of the time in a very interesting and contextualised way.This book is part of a trilogy, the other two books covering, successively, mid-Victorian and Late Victorian periods. The Early Victorian period is, arguably, the most interesting as this was the transition from an essentially agricultural, rural and agrarian society to a new era that was industrial, urban and significantly mechanised. Although this book is only a general introduction to the period, and clearly cannot possibly cover all the main issues, there are some good sections on topics such as Malthusianism, conditions for the labouring poor, the factory system, industrial infrastructure (mainly discussion of railways), the English gentry, artisan culture, and Chartism. One major omission is that there is nothing on Scotland or Wales, only fleeting references to Ireland. This is really an 'English' history. Also, the discussion on Irish immigrants, while extensive, are of fairly superficial value and - no doubt due to the need for brevity - Harrison leaves out some key points about the Irish social trajectory in Great Britain, especially in the north of England and Scotland. However, given this is an introductory text, I would consider these to be excusable limitations, if not inevitable.The discussions on Chartism, which are late in the book, are especially good. I am embarrassed to admit that I had largely forgotten most of what I had learnt on Chartism and had allowed the ignorant idea to form in my head that it was largely a movement of middle-class radicals. This is not true - in fact, Chartism was a hugely significant revolutionary movement of working class people that could have toppled governments, and almost did, on two occasions, in 18 and 1848 respectively. This is not something most people are aware of - perhaps for obvious reasons, in that one must ask: if it could happen (or almost happen) then, well why not now?What I took away from Harrison's analysis is the sense in which working people and the labouring poor managed to create and sustain their own independent, indigenous culture and Harrison touches on some of the reasons for this. However, Harrison's main focus when discussing culture is on the middling classes - i.e. the artisans (the labour aristocracy) and the lower middle-class. It would be interesting to read more about distinctive culture among the labouring poor and also the real extent of revolutionary politics among the labouring poor and emerging working class during this period. Those are of course specialist subjects, but this book is a good introduction to the social and political issues facing working people during a crucial era of our shared history.

  • By S. BARRATT on 27 June 2004

    A good, cheap little book that includes the important parts of the history of the Victorians in the early to mid 19th Century.

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