Friday, August 31, 2007

Everyday Life in Victorian England

I was perusing a city thrift store when I came across a book entitled The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England From 1811-1901.
From the blurb on the back:
In this timesaving reference book, respected author and historian Kristine Hughes brings 19th century England to life as she leads you through the details that characterize this fascinating era. From slice-of-life facts, anecdotes and firsthand accounts, to sweeping timelines and major historical events, this guide presents the delightful and often surprising daily realities of Regency and Victorian England. With it, you'll craft a vibrant story as you learn:
  • What people ate, from pigeon pie and turtle dinners to syllabub and milk punch.
  • Where a prisoner would go if he were remanded to the "hulks".
  • The four coats a gentleman must have in his wardrobe, and other fashion requirements of the era.
  • The rules honored by decent society, from the proper way to promenade to the polite hours to "call".
  • How couples married and divorced, through churching, wife-selling and other practices.
  • What people did for work, from cottagers and climbing boys to milkmaids and manservants.
  • The meaning of common slang words like mawleys and moleskins.
  • What Cook's Tours were like and where they could take the adventurous.
  • Trends in entertainment, such as dandies, panoramas and more.

I've been fascinated with the 19th century for some time now so naturally I immediately bought the book. My interest in this era probably began through the reading of military history. Britain was involved in many conflicts during this period; most notably the Napoleonic Wars, the First and Second Afghan Wars, the Crimean War, the First and Second Sikh Wars, the Indian Mutiny, the Zulu War and the First and Second Boer Wars.

I'm also interested in genealogy and am currently in the slow and often disrupted process of tracing my ancestry. I have traced some of my English ancestors back to the early 19th century. To me, tracing my ancestors is more than just noting down dates from birth, death and wedding certificates, it's about understanding the times in which they lived. This book will be just another piece in the puzzle of building a picture of their environment at that time.

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