TOP FIVE BOOKS On... THE Victorians
Queen Victoria Author: lucy Worsley Price: £25
Where better to begin with the Victorians than with the monarch who defined them? This new biography from the historian and broadcaster Lucy Worsley explores the sovereign’s life through 24 days that shaped her life. Drawing on diaries, letters and more, Worsley humanises a woman who is too often reduced to symbolic status.
Dominion Author: Peter Ackroyd Price: £25
The fifth instalment in the author’s History Of England series sums up the country’s apex, from victory at Waterloo in 1815 (yes, we know, a little before Victoria’s time) to ruling an empire that spanned a quarter of the world by 1901. While some might be put off by its broad approach, it remains an excellent intro to the era.
one Hot Summer Author: rosemary Ashton Price: £11
An account of the Great Stink of 1858, when the stench of the sewage-filled Thames sparked a political crisis, might seem like a niche choice. But Rosemary Ashton argues the year was also a landmark one for three iconic Victorians – Disraeli, Dickens and Darwin – and interweaves their stories with the cultural history of a scorching, smelly summer.
Liberty’s Dawn Author: Emma Griffin Price: £13
No discussion of the Victorian age can be complete without mentioning the Industrial Revolution. This ‘people’s history’ draws on 350 accounts written by labourers offering a factory-floor view of the period. Through these autobiographies the author reveals the social impact of the tech boom.
Victorians undone Author: Kathryn hughes Price: £10
This unique book focuses on the body parts that define five famous Victorians as a means of exploring the attitudes of the age. For example, a study of Charles Darwin’s beard focuses on the fashion for facial hair post-crimea, while rumours that George Eliot’s right hand was larger than her left scandalised her family.