A Brief History of Life in Victorian Britain by Michael Paterson

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.

4 stars

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