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18 September 2014
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Victorian Britain

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Victorian Women and Urban Life: Go Further


The Victorian City: Images and Realities edited by HJ Dyos and Michael Woolf (Routledge, 1973)

Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London by Lynda Nead (Yale University Press, 2005)

Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation and the City by Deborah Epstein Nord (Cornell, 1995)

City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London by Judith Walkowitz (Virago Press, 1992)

The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women by Elizabeth Wilson (Virago Press, 1991)


Monuments and Dust: The Culture of Victorian London: One of the most interesting websites devoted to Victorian London.

The Victorian Web: A comprehensive resource for information on Victorian society in general.

The National Archives: A wide selection of sources about the lives of Victorian women, and the laws that defined their rights.

Places to visit

Art galleries

The new industrial and commercial middle classes of the Victorian era were great patrons of the arts, and some British provincial art galleries contain major collections of the sorts of works that they commissioned, as well as work depicting domestic interiors and women. Outstanding collections of Victorian modern life art can be seen at Manchester City Art Gallery, Birmingham City Art Gallery and at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

In London, Tate Britain and the Museum of London have excellent examples of modern life-painting. Material relating to urban transport is displayed at the Railway Museum, York, and at the London Transport Museum.


There are several museums that help to recapture the nature of Victorian society and the place of women within it, most obviously the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which has wonderful collections of art and artefacts reflecting the nature of the middle- and upper-class Victorian home.

Smaller museums yield information about women's work, and their patterns of dress and consumption. Among the most notable of these museums are Quarry Bank Mill at Style, Cheshire; the textile museum in the Halifax Piece Hall; and Platt Hall Museum, Manchester.

Local history libraries or archives

Consult some primary sources detailing the nature of women's work and household activities - such as business records, census enumerators' books, trade directories, household budgets and private diaries.

Details of business records relating to women in the West Yorkshire textile industries can be found in The West Riding Wool Textile Industry: A catalogue of business records by Pat Hudson (Edington, Pasold, 1976). Other guides to archive holdings can be found on the websites of most major repositories.

Many collections of working-class autobiographies have been published, and include several written by women. For a guide see, for example, The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated Critical Bibliography, vols 1-3 edited by J Burnett, D Vincent and J Mayall (Hassocks Harvester, 1984).


Examining surviving Victorian housing - from outside and within - can be very revealing, particularly if these can be matched to information from census returns. It is possible to reconstruct Victorian households at each census point, and to imagine where each household member fitted in within the house. In many major cities there are now organised walks that are helpful in tracing Victorian history - details of these can usually be obtained from local history libraries.

Women's History Trails have been established in a number of cities - including Dundee, Manchester and London. These trails, usually taken on foot, allow you to visit places of significance for women's history - such as the homes of notable women, or sites of historical significance. Take a look in your local press, or local history library, for details.

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