Victorian England and Europe, 1840-1900

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center

The long reign of Victoria encompassed so many fashions, wars, and changes of other countries' governments that it could easily be subdivided. Yet, travel was becoming so open, it becomes difficult to extricate one country from another.
Be sure and catch the Atlas of Civilisation series, in this case the WWI and before chapters of The Cultural Atlas of France, The Cultural Atlas of Russia, etc.

Arnold, James

All Drawn By Horses *****!
Newton Abbott, Long & NY; David & Charles, 1979
Good text with line drawings by the author, and an invaluable 2-page glossary of coach terms. Freight wagons as well as phaetons; in fact, heavier on the wagons, which do all the duty of trucks, while on the streets of old only the richest had the carriages equivalent to cars. T2

Bierman, John

Napoleon III and His Carnival Empire ***
John Murray Ltd., London, 1989; bibliography, index
This very detailed bibliography is fun reading, but we ran into one massive, gratuitous tabloid story that makes us suspicious of the other side stories in the book. In Chapter 3, Bierman describes Count d'Orsay as the bisexual lover of both Lord and Lady Blessington, as if this were established fact. Moers, while covering this, presents the far more likely interpretation that d'Orsay was, like many great dandies, narcissistic neuter, and Lady Blessington frigid, preferring a platonic companion. Bierman also states, "Lord Blessington ... forced his innocent daughter into marriage with d'Orsay to provide a cover for his own relationship with the Frenchman." In fact, the Blessingtons had added d'Orsay to their menage years before as a son with his parents' blessing and permission; it was only as a provision of Lord Blessington's will that d'Orsay married one of his daughters. Very clever of Lord Blessington to arrange a cover for his post-mortem sex life. Both daughters were in their early teens, and in the habit of the day, it was to remain a "marriage blanc" until she was 18. She ran away at 17 to relatives, and her stories are rather suspect. T2

Bloch, Ivan

Sexual Life in England, Past & Present *****!
1938; now from Oracle; 664 pgs !!
What had to be privately printed in 1938 can be of general interest now. Despite the title, only covers from the Anglo-Saxon period through the late 1800's, but in a full range, from streetwalkers to the escapades of royalty, from staid marriage arrangements to kinky erotica. T2

Blum, Stella, editor

Fashions and Costumes from Godey's Lady's Book ****
Dover Publications, May 1985; Paperback, 91st ed., 136pp.
Over 400 striking fashion designs from rare issues of Godey's Lady's Book (1837-1869), the most influential women's magazine of the period. Introduction and captions. 435 designs, 42 in full color.

Paris Fashions of the 1890's: A Picture Sourcebook with 350 Designs, including 24 in Full Color *****!
Dover, NY; 88 pg
Young women's and children's fashions in England, with a French bent, from The Young Ladies' Journal.

Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazar, 1867-1898 *****!
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 320 pg, 1000+ illos
Stellar costume book, detailing materials and colours as well as styles, but most valuable for its illustrations of how women did their hair in the period. T1

Boucher, Francois

Twenty Thousand Years of Fashion; the History of Costume and Personal Adornment ***
Harry N. Abrams, 1966; 440 pg, index, glossary
Strong in this period, well illustrated, with photos of surviving garments when possible. T1

Bray, Peter, editor

Transport Through the Ages **
Taplinger Publishing Co., Inc., NY, 1971; illos by Barbara Brown
Covers a bit of everything, from dugout canoes on. Emphasis on later periods. T1

Brett, Gerard

Dinner is Served ***
Archon Books, Hamden, CN, 1968
British meals of the day and their conduct; Part Two covers 1660 to 1900. T2

Brockett, Oscar G.

History of the Theatre ***
Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1977
Good university-level text on staging conventions, acting forms, audience behavior, etc. T3

Cornish, Joe, et al

The Coast of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland ***
Abrams; 142 pages; lots of photos
In cause you need to see it but can't make the trip. T3

Duffy, Christopher

Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare, 1660-1860 ****
Hippocrene Books, NY, 1975; now from Greenhill
Well-written, well-illustrated and well-designed. The Fortess Wargame for Miniatures is tactical fun while teaching you how things can work or go wrong. The other appendix, on how to tour old fortifications, is good if you get to make the research trip. T3

Ehrlich, Blake

London on the Thames ***
Little, Brown & Co., NY, 1966
Each chapter tours London at a different period, often in the newest neighborhood of the expanding metropolis. T2

Fay, Charles Edey

The Story of the "Mary Celeste" ****
Peabody Museum, Salem, Mass., 1942; now Dover Publications, Inc.; 261 pg, index, Bibliographical Notes
Almost more detail than you can stand on the "mystery ship" found floating, abandoned, in 1872. T3

Gernsheim, Alison

Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey, 1840-1914 *****!
Dover Publications; 240 pg, 235 photos (most two to the page, sideways)
The text is wonderfully researched, with period comments on fashion, cosmetics, emigrant kits, dyes and colour combinations -- priceless! Must read. T2

Hale, William Harlan, and the editors of Horizon Magazine

Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking through the Ages ****
American Heritage Publishing, Inc., 1968
Part One has the description of customs and habits, foods available, and some interesting art. Part Two has the tastiest recipes, done for the modern kitchen. Especially hits this period in Part One. T1

Hibbert, Christopher

London, the Biography of a City ***
William Morrow & Co., Inc., NY, 1969
Runs it all down through time, with good coverage of this period. T2

Hogg, Ian V.

The History of Fortification ***
St. Martin's Press, NY, 1981
Clear, interesting and accurate overview from 7000 BC through the 1970's, well illustrated with photos and diagrams; bibliography and glossary. T3

Inglis, Brian

Trance: A Natural History of Altered States of Mind ****
Paladin/Grafton Books, London, 1990
A history of animal magnetism, mesmerism, hypnotism, and related phenomena, especially the parts that do not fit materialist scientism. Details the researchers and their studies through this century. T3

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
The Contemporary half will provide your world-wide naming needs, both individual and family names, but there is a special chapter on Victorian American naming fashions. T1.

Jerrold, Clare Armstrong Bridgman

The Beaux and the Dandies: Nash, Brummell, and D'Orsay with Their Courts ****
1910; S. Paul
This actually tracks the beaux all the way to the beginning use of the word in the Restoration. As she shows, this is important, as the classic beaux (rather than the merely flashy dandy) always functioned as an adjunct of royalty and high society, and was required to be impudent, impertinent, bossy, and witty: simply, the modern descendant of the royal jester, who could point out to these mighty people the truth about themselves. The jester became less necessary and mutated into the dandy; the dandy became less necessary and disappeared. She nicely traces this to the last beau, D'Orsay, who could attach himself to society but not a court, because Victoria was far too sober to have a court jester. Dandies, of course, are with us always. An excellent corrective to those who can only view the beaux as morally degraded parasites, however charming. T2

Kohler, Carl

A History of Costume ****
1930; New York, G. Howard Watt
Hand-sized, info-packed, based on surviving clothes first and artwork secondarily. Author's line drawings of construction and detail. Neophytes should use with a picture book, which it will greatly clarify. T2

Laver, James

The Age of Illusion: Manners and Morals 1750 to 1848 ***
D. McKay Company, NY, 1972
How people thought and acted, as well as how they thought they ought to think and act. T2

Litchfield, Frederick

Illustrated History of Furniture from the Earliest to the Present Time ****
1903; London: Truslove & Hanson Limited; New York:; illustrated by John Lane 1892-1903.
A good basic reference, based on art in early ages. You normally don't have to detail furniture, just know if they had easily movable chairs and tables or what's fashionable. Eurocentric, Anglocentric. T1

MacColl, Gail, and Carol McD. Wallace

To Marry an English Lord ****
Sidgewick and Jackson, Ltd., London, 1989
Whether the hunting of titles by rich young Yankee women (and some Western heiresses), or the hunting of heiresses by bankrupt (largely British) noblemen, the cross-Atlantic traffic forever changed both Society and possibly world affairs. These are the details from Mrs. Astor's Four Hundred to the weddings, the parties, life in England, and how to remarry or at least play around. Covers 1860 to about 1910. T3

Mitchell, R. J., and M.D.R. Leys

A History of London Life ***
Penguin Books, Inc., NY, 1958
Different areas of the town at different periods. T2

Moers, Ellen

The Dandy: Brummell to Beerhohm *****!
The Viking Press, Inc., NY, 1960
An absolute must-read for high society! Will give you a fine feeling for exclusivity and ton. The Victorians reacted to the Regency and Georgian dandy with a growing revulsion and disdain, but they could not yet ignore them. T2

Nock, O .S., editor

Encyclopedia of Railroads ****
Galahad Books, NY, 1977; 480 pg, index
History of railroads and equipment over the entire world, including Africa, Asia, and south America. Sections on equipment and operation, also the great luxury trains, past and present. Gorgeous colour layout, oversize. One lap-breaker worth the effort of lifting. T1

Olian, Joanne, ed.

80 Godey's Full-Color Fahion Plates 1838-1880 ***
Dover Publications, June 1998; Paperback, 96pp.
More good Godey's stuff.

Wedding Fashions, 1862-1912; 380 Costume Designs from la Mode Illustree ****
Dover Publications, January 1994; Paperback, 90pp.
Whole wedding party, sisters of the bride, attendents, etc.

Oppenheim, Janet

"Shattered Nerves": Doctors, Patients, and Depression in Victorian England ***
Oxford University Press, 1991; 389 pg, index, bibliography hidden in the Notes
Interesting history of the development of psychiatry in England, with occasional flashes of influential development in France and America. Some case histories, more histories of the doctors, good definitions in text, but retains that dry, scholarly air even at its best. Vital if you are going to have anyone go off their head or consult a mad-doctor. T3

Payne, Robert

The Gold of Troy: The Story of Heinrich Schliemann and the Buried Cities of Ancient Greece ***
Funk & Wagnalls, NY, 1959; 273 pg, no index, bibliography
A bit dated now, especially in his lack of knowledge of the real perfidy of Schliemann in falsifying his data, but still a good look at how archeology operated in its infancy. Payne does not in the least glorify Schliemann, but paints him as the determined egotist he was. T3

Piper, Leonard

Murder by Gaslight ****
Michael O'Mara Books, London; Gallery Books, W.H. Smith Publishers, Inc., NY, 1991; 219 pg, no index, no bibliography
True crime. Ten English murder cases, often multiple murder, from the 1890's through 1910 or so. These may be in the news, then again, they may just give you an insight into the mind of period criminals, who did not have to worry about fingerprints, blood-typing, and the rest, and period detectives, who had to find other ways to nail murderers. T2

Reader's Digest Books, the editors

Reader's Digest Book of the Road ****
Reader's Digest Association, Ltd., London
Identifies the wildflowers, trees, shrubs, birds, wild mammals, butterflies, sea shells, reptiles, fish, and farm animals of the British Isles. Lets you know what blooms in which month, especially useful if you are writing in Taos. T3

Salmonson, Jessica Amanda

The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era *****!
Paragon House, NY, 1991; 290 pg, no index, bibliography
Until the institution of the real physical exam for the military, women still manage to serve on many fronts, but mostly when battlefields sweep over their own country. T2

Sedgwick, Michael

Antique Cars *****!
Exeter Books, NY, 1981; illus. by Mike Atkinson; 93 pg, index, technical information table.
Shows the 81 early autos -- 1860 to 1918, gas or steam, all sorts of configurations and drives -- in the usual photos, but also in colour paintings that remind you how cheerfully bright, like coaches, these cars often were. Even an otherwise all black one will have red spokes on the wheels, or brightly coloured leather seats. T2

Somerset, Anne

Ladies-in-Waiting, from the Tudors to the Present Day ****
Knopf, dist. by Random House, NY; 1984; 341 pg, index, bibliography
Discusses the duties and personalities, how appointments were made, kept, and lost in the English court down the centuries T3

Stephens, Autumn

Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era ****
Conari Press, Berkley, CA, 1992; 249 pg, no index, bibliography
150 mini-biographies (none over two pages) of unconventional women. Good to whet the appetite for further research in the bibliography. Note the social hell these women caught, too, for their actions. T2

Thebaud, Rev. Aug. J. , S.J.

The Irish Race in the Past and the Present *
A passionately Catholic text from 1872. Even as an on-line quick-check for dates it is distinctly lacking. Only useful if you want an example of large-scale religio-political pamphleteering. Does not give good social background at any period. T3

Ulseth, Hazel, & Helen Shannon

Bridal Fashions Victorian Era ****
Hobby House Press, November 1986; Paperback, 168pp.
Covers 1880-1908 ONLY

Waugh, Norah

Corsets and Crinolines *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1954
Underpinnings, 1600's to 1925, in period art. T3

The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900 *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1964
The most fashionable men's dress, in period illustrations, with tailor's patterns, period comments on colours and fabrics, etc. Superb. T3

The Cut of Women's Clothes, 1600 to 1930 *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1968
The same for women. Both books show fastenings! T3

Wilkes, John

The London Police in the Nineteenth Century ****
Cambridge University Press, 1977; 52 pg, index
A slim volume with many pictures, which is not always a fault. Life as a Peeler, as well as the big names. Whole chapter on events leading up to the Battle of Sydney Street. The fear of anarchists connected with this is also covered in one story in Piper, above, "The Warsaw Restaurant" with which it makes a nice partner. T2

Whale, George

British Airships, Past/Present/Future ****
Project Gutenberg; original circa 1920
Covers lighter-than-air technology from the late 1700s in France. Gives highly readable explanations of technical details that in modern hands would make your eyes turn to Xs. The discussion of the pros and cons of airships for the future, etc., are unique. T1-2

Wilson, Violet A.

The Coaching Era
New York; E. P. Dutton & Company

Wise, Arthur

The Art and History of Personal Combat *****!
Arma Press, New York Graphic Society Ltd., Greenwich, CN, 1971
Necessary for proper duelling techniques and behaviors, also good on the fencing instructors and salons. T3


Yes, we've found some, and it's not American Civil War stuff!

Doan, John

Features the harp-guitar which you can find in your mail-order catalogues, along with classical banjo, banjuterine, harp mandolin, harmonium, violin, keyboard, piano, concert harp, violin, cello, mandolin, accordion, and mandobass. Tunes of the Victorian era. T1


Heraldica ****

Over 200 articles on the succession, courts, development of titles, lines of descent, legalities of claims to titles, etc. on the upper classes of Europe. Some refer back as far as this period. These are topics often covered nowhere at all. As well, portrait galleries of various families can be found.

H-GIG Historical Times & Places ***

A thorough-going linksite maintained by the University of California at Riverside, H-GIG sorts by area, by era (ancient, Medieval, early Modern, Modern<yours>, and 20th C), or by topic (military, women, etc.). It's a good place to start a hunt for books and essays online.

  • Leave for H-GIG


History -- the 19th Century ****

The specific focus of this site is Canadian history and life, but let's face it, a lot applies elsewhere. This is also where you'll find some things unique to Canada!


The History of Costume ***

125 pages of images from the book "History of Costume" printed in 1861 in Munich. The 500 figures cover "historical dress from antiquity to the end of the 19th century." Victorianized drawings, but it's T1


The Phrenology Page ***

"Phrenology is the science which studies the relationships between a person's character and the morphology of the skull." Includes a historical overview, definitions of words and concepts, and images with meanings of various characteristics.


Maps of Switzerland****

German language site provides them from 1549-1939


Victoria Research Web ****

A central link site for Victoriana on the Web.

To Maps of 1851 Europe

To Victorian Source Books

To Victorian Asia Bibliography

To Monograph on Corsets

To 1861 Horse Care

To Victorian Wedding Costume Books

Back to Times and Places