The Victorian World

The Victorian World

The Victorian World

The Victorian World


With an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses political history, the history of ideas, cultural history and art history, The Victorian Worldoffers a sweeping survey of the world in the nineteenth century.

This volume offers a fresh evaluation of Britain and its global presence in the years from the 1830s to the 1900s. It brings together scholars from history, literary studies, art history, historical geography, historical sociology, criminology, economics and the history of law, to explore more than 40 themes central to an understanding of the nature of Victorian society and culture, both in Britain and in the rest of the world. Organised around six core themes - the world order, economy and society, politics, knowledge and belief, and culture - The Victorian Worldoffers thematic essays that consider the interplay of domestic and global dynamics in the formation of Victorian orthodoxies. A further section on 'Varieties of Victorianism' offers considerations of the production and reproduction of external versions of Victorian culture, in India, Africa, the United States, the settler colonies and Latin America. These thematic essays are supplemented by a substantial introductory essay, which offers a challenging alternative to traditional interpretations of the chronology and periodisation of the Victorian years.

Lavishly illustrated, vivid and accessible, this volume is invaluable reading for all students and scholars of the nineteenth century.


The notion of the ‘Victorian world’ as addressed by this volume is perhaps more ambivalent than most of the ‘worlds’ examined in the Routledge ‘Worlds’ series. The essays offered here, individually and severally, seek to work within this ambivalence, to respond on the one hand to an increasing sensitivity both to the imperial dimension of domestic culture of Britain and Ireland visible in the scholarship of the last decade, a new determination to see the imperial dynamics of the experience of Victorian Britain, and on the other to the new attentiveness to the dynamics and effects of globalisation.

The essays also acknowledge that the idea of ‘Victorian’ is itself a concept freighted with contested meanings and usages. For half a century ‘Victorian studies’ has been a recognisable field of interdisciplinary scholarship, equipped with the full panoply of academic endeavour, journals, associations, centres, bibliographies and chairs. And yet scholars have persisted in treating the designation with embarrassment, if not disdain, disputing the utility and validity of the chronological boundaries so signified, and contesting the coherence and consistency of the characteristics ascribed. The contributors to The Victorian World have not, in taking on their assignments, committed themselves to any particular stance in relation to these debates, other than a willingness to explore aspects of a ‘Victorian’ experience, the usefulness of designations of Victorian or Victorianism, and the productiveness of multidisciplinary approaches to these questions.

The volume has been structured around a series of themes and then specific topics designed to offer a broad multidisciplinary approach to its subject. Authors were given broad latitude in the particular approach to the topic they took on. The first section, which looks at Britain and the world order, and the last section, which attempts to consider the extent to which ‘Victorian’ and ‘Victorianism’ are useful concepts for understanding the cultures of British colonies of various sorts, the ‘informal empire’ and also the United States, by necessity adopt international perspectives. The essays in the remaining sections, on economy and society, politics, knowledge and belief, and culture, offer discussions more particularly centred on the experiences of Britain, although all the authors have been encouraged to explore the global dimensions and connections of their discussions.

It is hoped that cumulatively, the essays transcend the inevitable limits of their individual parts, together offering fresh insight into the character, conventions and contradictions of Victorian Britain and its wider world.

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