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History in Focus

the guide to historical resources • Issue 1: The Victorian Era •

The Victorian Era

An engraving of Colnay Hatch Lunatic Asylum

Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum


The web has a large selection of resources relating to the Victorian Era. The following sites provide a small sample of the types of resources available. Try using Humbul to locate other history web sites.


The Victorian Web

The Victorian Web provides a comprehensive general overview of nineteenth century British history and literature. The site is divided into sections on political, social and economic history. There are also sections on gender matters, philosophy, religion, science, technology, genre and technique, authors, visual arts and Victorian design. Within each section commentaries are provided on individual themes. These commentaries present a useful introduction to the topics covered. Use is also made of abstracts from primary sources. As well as providing commentaries The Victorian Web has a section on links to other web resources and a bibliography.The Victorian web was created under the direction of George Landow, Professor of English and Art History at Brown University. The site was originally designed as a resource to aid in the teaching of courses in Victorian literature. All the material is in English and is available free of charge. The site is easy to browse and a search facility is provided.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook

The Internet modern history sourcebook has been developed by Paul Halsall at Fordham University. This site forms part of a series of Internet sourcebooks covering different historical periods and themes. This sourcebook covers a wide range of topics from the Reformation up to the present and provides an extensive amount of information. The material provided is a mixture of documents hosted on the site and links to other sites. Brief annotations are available for some of the documents and introductions have been added to many of the sources hosted by the site. The emphasis of the site is the provision of primary sources; there is an interesting section on the study of history and the use of primary sources. The site is relatively easy to navigate with documents divided into sixty different categories which are further subdivided. Although a search engine specifically for the sourcebook is not available, fairly effective searches can be carried out using the Fordham University search engine.

Victorian Research Web

The Victorian Research Web has been designed as a resource for the scholarly study of nineteenth century Britain. The site provides information on relevant archives, libraries and bibliographies. There are details of relevant journals, internet discussion groups and of teaching syllabi. The site also has an annotated list of links to other relevant web pages.

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Poverty and Health

Mr Charles Booth's Inquiry
Charles Booth's 1889 descriptive map of London poverty

Charles Booth's map of London poverty has been reproduced on this site. The map, which was originally created in 1889, has been scanned and prepared for viewing over the WWW by Sabiha Ahmad of the University of Michigan. The map has been divided into seventy-two sections, each of which can be viewed in two different sizes. The original map was created following Charles Booth's survey of life and labour in London. The map indicates different levels of wealth and poverty thorough a colour coded scheme. The reproduction of the map has worked well with the colours being fairly clear. However, some of the smaller text on the map can be difficult to read. The site includes a background section and an index, but these do not currently have any content.

The Workhouse

This site provides a helpful and interesting introduction to workhouses and poor relief in general. The site includes a timeline giving details of major events in poor relief from the mid-fourteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. The site provides details on life in workhouses, literature inspired by workhouses (some of which is available in full-text from the site) and education of the poor. Information on the Poor Laws, including the full text of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act is given. There are details on the site of Poor Law Unions, including lists of Poor Law Unions by county. Further details are provided for a selection of the workhouses, for example, when they were built, plans, picture and photographs of the buildings as they currently stand. The site also includes information on how to find further information about workhouses from records and archives. There is also a section of useful links, a short bibliography and a glossary. The site makes use of frames but this does make navigation straightforward.

John Snow

John Frerichs of the University of California School of Epidemiology created this site in order to encourage interest in the life and work of John Snow. The site includes biographical information on John Snow including portraits. There are details of his work as an anaesthesiologist as well as his work on cholera. There is also a section which outlines the nineteenth century debates on what caused cholera. The full text of Snow's 1855 publication On the Mode of Communication of Cholera is included on the site. A fascinating feature of this site are the online maps. There is a copy of a map originally published by James Reynolds in 1859. It is possible to zoom in and out of this map. There is also a map showing where the different water companies in London operated. The John Snow site is continually being developed, and audio and broadband access is being developed. The site provides an interesting insight into the work of John Snow and the history of cholera in nineteenth century London.

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Irish Famine

Views of the Irish Famine

This web site provides access to primary source material relating to the Irish Famine. Selected articles and illustrations are available from the Illustrated London News, the Cork Examiner, The Pictorial Times and Punch. The articles and illustrations cover a period from 1842 to 1857, with the majority of the material dating from 1845 to 1847. The site also provides a full text version of the article, Narrative of a journey from Oxford to Skibbereen during the year of the Irish Famine written by Lord Dufferin and the Hon. G.G. Boyle published in 1847. The articles can be browsed by publication. The site maintains a list of links to other web site on the famine.

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Art and Crafts Movement

The William Morris Home Page

The William Morris Home Page provides a range of information on the life and works of William Morris and his associates. The site includes a short biography of Morris, details of places associated with Morris and portraits of Morris and his contemporaries. The site contains images of designs created by Morris; these include textiles, wallpapers, stained glass and book arts. These images can, however, be slow to download. The site has details of Morris's writings with some links to full text where these are available on the Internet. The site also has a bibliography which contains details of works relating to Morris, biographies, critical studies, decorative arts and on Morris and the book arts. Information is also available on collections which hold his work. The William Morris homepage has a section with links to other William Morris web sites and to discussion groups. There are details of the William Morris Society: contact details, how to join, publications and copies of the US newsletter from 1988 onwards. The site is relatively straight forward to navigate as the site has a fairly clear structure to it and there is an index which further aids navigation.

William Morris Gallery

The William Morris Gallery is located in Walthamstow, London, in a former William Morris family home. The gallery's web site provides details of the gallery (opening hours, location, latest news etc) and its collections. The web site has a selection of online exhibitions. These exhibitions include hand painted tiles, photographs of William Morris and family, and of Morris and Company. There are also images of arts and crafts design, stained glass, printed material and selected works. Each image is accompanied by information about the item. The web site also maintains a small selection of links to other pages of interest.

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The Great Exhibition

The Great Exhibition

Information from the Victorian Web

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Primary Sources

Select list of Victorian illustrated newspapers and journals in the British Library Newspaper Library

This page forms part of the British Library Newspaper Collection web site. This page gives details of a selection of Victorian newspapers and periodicals which can be viewed in the British Library. The issue dates which are available are indicated on the web page. The page also provides details of where the newspapers can be viewed. Further details about visiting the newspaper collections can be obtained from the main British Library Collection web site, which also has an online catalogue of newspapers held in the British Library. The select list of Victorian illustrated newspapers and periodicals page also has some illustrations taken from newspapers and periodicals.

Internet Library of Early Journals

The Internet Library of Early Journals aims to gives access to a twenty year consecutive run of a selection of 18th and 19th century British journals. The 18th century journals available are Gentleman's Magazine, The Annual Register and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. The 19th century journals available are Notes and Queries, The Builder and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. Details of why these journals were selected and short descriptions of the journals are given on the site. It is possible to browse the journals chronologically and searches can be carried out on Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Gentleman's Magazine, Notes and Queries and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. It is possible to search the subject index, title index or author index. Each journal, however, has to be searched individually. The site makes use of frames and JavaScript.

The Penny Magazine

This site, from the History Department at the University of Rochester, has copies of twelve issues of The Penny Magazine, a weekly publication produced by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The magazine issues on this site date from immediately before Queen Victoria took the throne. The site includes a very brief introduction to The Penny Magazine, a copy of the first issue of the magazine from 1832, one from 1833 and ten from 1835. Each issue can be browsed for full-text articles, poems and illustrations published in the original magazines. The site makes use of frames.

Victorian Women Writers Project

The Victorian Women Writers project aims to provide access to highly accurate transcriptions of works from British women writers from the nineteenth century. The project aims to encode all its texts using Standard Generalised Markup Language (SGML) according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) guidelines. Further information about the project and SGML and TEI are available from the site. The site provides access to a wide variety of material; this material includes anthologies, novels, political pamphlets, religious tracts and children's books. All works can be viewed as HTML or SGML files or can be downloaded. Full bibliographical details are provided for each item. The works can be browsed alphabetically by author. It is also possible to search the site by carrying out either a simple keyword search or a boolean search. The site also has a list of works currently available and a list of those currently under preparation.

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Industry: the Industrial Revolution and the Railway System

This site, created by Julia Lee and maintained by Robert Schwartz of Mount Holyoke College, presents a wide variety of information on the railway system of nineteenth century England and Wales. The web site includes primary source material in the form of extracts from six prominent Victorians voicing their opinions on the railways and articles from the Illustrated London News. The newspaper articles are divided into different categories relating to the railways, such as accidents and disasters, stations, personalities, and politics and economics. The images section of the site contains a large number of Victorian images portraying the period as a whole and not just the railways. These images have, unfortunately, not been annotated. The site as a whole is also well illustrated. The data analysis section contain a wealth of information. There are, for example, maps showing growth of the railways, population distribution and natural resources distribution. Robert Schwarz provides a commentary on his data analysis. Other features of the site include student research projects and a section of links.

The City as Hero: Victorian London in Life and Literature

This site was created by Susan Horton from the English Department of the University of Massachusetts at Boston for a course that she teaches. Although some of the details on the site are specific to the course, information of general interest is also available. The site is especially geared towards the study of Victorian towns, particularly London. The site has an annotated timeline of Victorian history, which includes links to appropriate web sites. A lengthy bibliography has also been created. This has been divided into categories, and resources are arranged alphabetically within these categories. There is also a list of links to online resources. The site includes a section of student research projects. This site provides an interesting general introduction to Victorian urban themes.

Monuments and Dust: the Culture of Victorian London

Monuments and Dust: the Culture of Victorian London is a joint project between the University of Virginia and University College London. The aim of the project is to create a visual, textual and statistical representation of Victorian London. Further details about the aims and intentions of the project and its contributors are available from the web site. The site currently has a selection of resources available. There is a model of the Crystal Palace in 1851 (a VRML plug in is needed to view this). Primary source material is available in the form of Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, extracts from the Times and Dore and Jerrold's London: a Pilgrimage. The site also contains London mortality and population statistics which can be searched by London borough and decade. If the site further develops to fulfill the aims of the project this should prove to be a very interesting and valuable resource.

Gardiner's Atlas - 1892

This web site provides reproductions of maps from A School Atlas of English History published in 1892.

Victorian Census Project

The aim of the Victorian census project, led by David Gatley at Staffordshire University, is to computerise nineteenth century census documents and related material about Great Britain and Ireland. The sources that are to be included in the project are nineteenth century census abstracts, vital registration statistics, returns of the Poor Law Commissioners, agricultural statistics, crime statistics and Pigot's and Slater's Topographies of Great Britain and Ireland. The web site provides details of the project and the types of data available from their teaching pack.

The projects hopes to make this information more widely available to the academic community. Although the majority of the data is made available through a teaching pack it is currently possible to download four sets of data extracted from the 1831 and 1861 censuses and the Scottish Registrar General's Annual Report for 1861. Abridged sections from Pigot's and Slater's Topography of Great Britain and Ireland are available on the site.

The Cambridge Victorian Studies Group

The Cambridge Victorian Studies Group website provides information about the group's five-year, interdisciplinary research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, entitled "Past versus Present: Abandoning the Past in an Age of Progress". The project aims to examine Victorian attitudes to the past, and in particular to understand how the Victorians reconciled their commitment to "creating the future" with the contemporary unearthing of "multiple pasts in wonderful profusion and vexingly contradictory detail". A detailed description of the project's aims is provided, together with listings of forthcoming related events such as seminars and symposia, and an archive of past events.

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