which our fans might enjoy
(For primary source materials, see Favorite books, Etc.)
Non-fiction, alphabetical by author
(Summaries are quoted from listings on sales sites for the books themselves.)
This Was Logging by Ralph W. Andrews
"The day would come when the Pacific Northwest's Big Woods would be only a fog-blurred memory. With the superb work of timber photographer Darius Kinsey, comprising more than 200 views, the author dramatically recalls lumbering's great days."
Gustave Whitehead: First In Flight by Susan Brinchman
""Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight" presents new, compelling evidence to credit Gustave Whitehead, aka Gustav Weißkopf, as "first in powered flight" and inventor of the airplane. This book reveals the fascinating truth about Whitehead's successful powered flights in Connecticut, more than two years before the Wrights flew at Kitty Hawk. Learn the startling reasons why the Wright brothers aren't "first in flight", as you enter the hidden history of early aviation."
Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury
"In the early nineteenth century the major English chocolate firms—Fry, Rowntree, and Cadbury—were all Quaker family enterprises that aimed to do well by doing good. The English chocolatiers introduced the world’s first chocolate bar and ever fancier chocolate temptations—while also writing groundbreaking papers on poverty, publishing authoritative studies of the Bible, and campaigning against human rights abuses. Chocolate was always a global business, and in the global competitors, especially the Swiss and the Americans Hershey and Mars, the Quaker capitalists met their match. The ensuing chocolate wars would culminate in a multi-billion-dollar showdown pitting Quaker tradition against the cutthroat tactics of a corporate behemoth.
Featuring a cast of savvy entrepreneurs, brilliant eccentrics, and resourceful visionaries, Chocolate Wars is a delicious history of the fierce, 150-year business rivalry for one of the world’s most coveted markets."
Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends by Allen Barra
"The gunfight at the OK Corrall was merely on e incident in the life of the most remarkable figure of the American West. In his 82 years, Earp was a buffalo hunter, detective, prospector, saloon keeper and finally an advisor o n Hollywood Westerns. '"
Meanings for Manhood: Constructions of Masculinity in Victorian America Mark C. Carnes (editor)
"The stereotype of the Victorian man as a flinty, sexually repressed patriarch belies the remarkably wide variety of male behaviors and conceptions of manhood during the mid- to late- nineteenth century. A complex pattern of alternative and even competing behaviors and attitudes emerges in this important collection of essays that points toward a "gendered history" of men."
Household Gods: The British and Their Possessions by Deborah Cohen
"At what point did the British develop their mania for interiors, wallpaper, furniture, and decoration? Why have the middle classes developed so passionate an attachment to the contents of their homes? This absorbing book offers surprising answers to these questions, uncovering the roots of today’s consumer society and investigating the forces that shape consumer desires. Richly illustrated, Household Gods chronicles a hundred years of British interiors, focusing on class, choice, shopping, and possessions.
Exploring a wealth of unusual records and archives, Deborah Cohen locates the source of modern consumerism and materialism in early nineteenth-century religious fervor. Over the course of the Victorian era, consumerism shed the taint of sin to become the preeminent means of expressing individuality. The book ranges from musty antique shops to luxurious emporia, from suburban semi-detached houses to elegant city villas, from husbands fretting about mantelpieces to women appropriating home decoration as a feminist cause. It uncovers a society of consumers whose identities have become entwined with the things they put in their houses."
Chatelaines: Utility to glorious extravagance by Genevieve Cummins
"Chatelaines are essentially decorative and useful waist hung items. This book provides a history of chatelaines with special attention paid to the 19th century, when the Victorians used them them for keys, sewing, dance, perfume bottles, spectacles and purses. Illustrations show the quality and variety of the examples produced. In addition, the book contains historical and sociological information about the people who wore and used chatelaines as well as much new material and information, collected together for the first time."
Ether Day by Julie M. Fenster
"On Friday, October 16, 1846, only one operation was scheduled at Massachusetts General Hospital....That day in Boston, the operation was the routine removal of a growth from a man's neck. But one thing would not be routine: instead of using pulleys, hooks, and belts to subdue a patient writhing in pain, this crucial operation would be the first performed under a general anesthetic. No one knew whether the secret concoction would work. Some even feared it might kill the patient.
This engrossing book chronicles what happened that day and during its dramatic aftermath. In a vivid history that is stranger than fiction, Ether Day tells the story of the three men who converged to invent the first anesthesia –– and the war of ego and greed that soon sent all three men spiraling wildly out of control."
Race to the Pole by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
"During the Golden Era of Exploration, Captain Robert Scott and his competitor Roald Amundsen conquered the unconquerable: Antarctica. Their perilous race to the South Pole claimed Scott s life and became the stuff of legend as well as endless scrutiny. In this compelling biography of Captain Scott and his fatal journey, renowned modern-day explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, holder of ten expeditionary records, has written what is sure to become the definitive book on this hotly debated subject. Infused with the intensity of fiction, and the author s hard-won, firsthand knowledge of what it takes to traverse the Antarctic continent, "Race to the Pole" is a prodigious achievement certain to become a classic in the literature of exploration."
Seattle: The Growth of the City by Alexander Holmes
"Celebrating America's favorite cityscapes, this series combines historic interest and contemporary beauty. Growth of the City features fascinating archival photographs contrasted with specially commissioned, full-color images of the same scene today. A visual lesson in the historic changes of our greatest urban landscapes."
Images of America series:
Mosquito Fleet of South Puget Sound
Tall Ships on Puget Sound
The Harrison Area
Jacquard's Web by Essinger James (If you like this book, be sure to also read Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet!)
"Circuits from silk? Today's technophiles probably have no idea how much today's computer technology owes to the invention of one ingenuous textile manufacturer in nineteenth-century France. Here, master storyteller James Essinger shows through a series of remarkable and meticulously researched historical connections how the Jacquard loom kick-started a process of scientific evolution which would lead directly to the development of the modern computer.
Jacquard's 1804 invention, a loom which used punch cards with stored instructions for weaving different patterns and designs, enabled the master silk-weavers of Lyons to weave fabrics 25 times faster than the competition. Here, Essinger reveals the plethora of extraordinary links between that innovation in weaving and today's computer age, introducing us to the intriguing and colorful people who paved the way. The book concludes by bringing the story completely up-to-date with the latest developments in the World Wide Web and the fascinating phenomenon of artificial intelligence.
Attractively illustrated and compellingly narrated, Jacquard's Web presents an eye-opening and scarcely known history that will prove fascinating to readers of popular science, especially those interested in the history of science, technology, and computing, as well as professional scientists, historians, and students."
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman"
"On November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly, the crusading young female reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s World newspaper, left New York City by steamship on a quest to break the record for the fastest trip around the world. Also departing from New York that day—and heading in the opposite direction by train—was a young journalist from The Cosmopolitan magazine, Elizabeth Bisland. Each woman was determined to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional hero Phileas Fogg and circle the globe in less than eighty days. The dramatic race that ensued would span twenty-eight thousand miles, captivate the nation, and change both competitors’ lives forever...
A vivid real-life re-creation of the race and its aftermath, from its frenzied start to the nail-biting dash at its finish, Eighty Days is history with the heart of a great adventure novel. Here’s the journey that takes us behind the walls of Jules Verne’s Amiens estate, into the back alleys of Hong Kong, onto the grounds of a Ceylon tea plantation, through storm-tossed ocean crossings and mountains blocked by snowdrifts twenty feet deep, and to many more unexpected and exotic locales from London to Yokohama. Along the way, we are treated to fascinating glimpses of everyday life in the late nineteenth century—an era of unprecedented technological advances, newly remade in the image of the steamship, the railroad, and the telegraph. For Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland—two women ahead of their time in every sense of the word—were not only racing around the world. They were also racing through the very heart of the Victorian age."
The Manly Art: Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting in America by Elliot J. Gorn
""It didn't occur to me until fairly late in the work that I was writing a book about the beginnings of a national celebrity culture. By 1860, a few boxers had become heroes to working-class men, and big fights drew considerable newspaper coverage, most of it quite negative since the whole enterprise was illegal. But a generation later, toward the end of the century, the great John L. Sullivan of Boston had become the nation's first true sports celebrity, an American icon. The likes of poet Vachel Lindsay and novelist Theodore Dreiser lionized him―Dreiser called him 'a sort of prize fighting J. P. Morgan'―and Ernest Thompson Seton, founder of the Boy Scouts, noted approvingly that he never met a lad who would not rather be Sullivan than Leo Tolstoy."―from the Afterword to the Updated Edition
Elliott J. Gorn's The Manly Art tells the story of boxing's origins and the sport's place in American culture. When first published in 1986, the book helped shape the ways historians write about American sport and culture, expanding scholarly boundaries by exploring masculinity as an historical subject and by suggesting that social categories like gender, class, and ethnicity can be understood only in relation to each other."
The Graves Are Walking by John Kelly
"A magisterial account of one of the worst disasters to strike humankind--the Great Irish Potato Famine--conveyed as lyrical narrative history from the acclaimed author of The Great Mortality
In this masterful, comprehensive account of the Irish Potato Famine, delivered with novelistic flair, Kelly gives us not only the startling facts of this disaster--one of the worst to strike mankind, killing twice as many lives as the American Civil War--but examines the intersection of political greed, bacterial infection, religious intolerance, and racism that made it possible. Kelly brings new material to his analysis of relevant political factors during the years leading up to the famine, and the extent to which Britain's nation-building policies exacerbated the mounting crisis. Despite the shocking, infuriating implications of his findings, The Graves Are Walking is ultimately a story of triumph--of one people's ability to remake themselves in a new land in the face of the unthinkable."
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
"The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions. Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece."
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
"Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller In the Garden of Beasts—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction."
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
"In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.
Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners; scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed; and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect murder.
With his unparalleled narrative skills, Erik Larson guides us through a relentlessly suspenseful chase over the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate."
The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
"At the end of the nineteenth century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hardworking families striving for a piece of the nation’s burgeoning industrial prosperity. In the mountains above Johnstown, an old earth dam had been hastily rebuilt to create a lake for an exclusive summer resort patronized by the tycoons of that same industrial prosperity, among them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. Despite repeated warnings of possible danger, nothing was done about the dam. Then came May 31, 1889, when the dam burst, sending a wall of water thundering down the mountain, smashing through Johnstown, and killing more than 2,000 people. It was a tragedy that became a national scandal."
The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough
"The National Book Award–winning epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal, a first-rate drama of the bold and brilliant engineering feat that was filled with both tragedy and triumph, told by master historian David McCullough.
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Truman, here is the national bestselling epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal. In The Path Between the Seas, acclaimed historian David McCullough delivers a first-rate drama of the sweeping human undertaking that led to the creation of this grand enterprise.
The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. Applying his remarkable gift for writing lucid, lively exposition, McCullough weaves the many strands of the momentous event into a comprehensive and captivating tale.
Winner of the National Book Award for history, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award (for the best book of the year on international affairs), The Path Between the Seas is a must-read for anyone interested in American history, the history of technology, international intrigue, and human drama."
Old Wheelways: Traces of bicycle history on the land by Robert L. McCullough
"In the later part of the nineteenth century, American bicyclists were explorers, cycling through both charted and uncharted territory. These wheelmen and wheelwomen became keen observers of suburban and rural landscapes, and left copious records of their journeys -- in travel narratives, journalism, maps, photographs, illustrations. They were also instrumental in the construction of roads and paths ("wheelways") -- building them, funding them, and lobbying legislators for them. Their explorations shaped the landscape and the way we look at it, yet with few exceptions their writings have been largely overlooked by landscape scholars, and many of the paths cyclists cleared have disappeared. In Old Wheelways, Robert McCullough restores the pioneering cyclists of the nineteenth century to the history of American landscapes.
McCullough recounts marathon cycling trips around the Northeast undertaken by hardy cyclists, who then describe their journeys in such magazines as The Wheelman Illustratedand Bicycling World; the work of illustrators (including Childe Hassam, before his fame as a painter); efforts by cyclists to build better rural roads and bicycle paths; and conflicts with park planners, including the famous Olmsted Firm, who often opposed separate paths for bicycles.
Today's ubiquitous bicycle lanes owe their origins to nineteenth century versions, including New York City's "asphalt ribbons." Long before there were "rails to trails," there was a movement to adapt existing passageways -- including aqueduct corridors, trolley rights-of-way, and canal towpaths -- for bicycling. The campaigns for wheelways, McCullough points out, offer a prologue to nearly every obstacle faced by those advocating bicycle paths and lanes today.
McCullough's text is enriched by more than one hundred historic images of cyclists (often attired in skirts and bonnets, suits and ties), country lanes, and city streets."
The Mullan Road: Carving a passage through the Frontier Northwest, 1859—62. ed. Paul D. McDermott, et al.
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
"James Abram Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, a renowned congressman, and a reluctant presidential candidate who took on the nation's corrupt political establishment. But four months after Garfield's inauguration in 1881, he was shot in the back by a deranged office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Garfield survived the attack, but become the object of bitter, behind-the-scenes struggles for power—over his administration, over the nation's future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic brings alive a forgotten chapter of U.S. history."
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
"At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.
The River of Doubt—it is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron.
After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western hemisphere forever.
Along the way, Roosevelt and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. The River of Doubt brings alive these extraordinary events in a powerful nonfiction narrative thriller that happens to feature one of the most famous Americans who ever lived."
The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football by John J. Miller
"John J. Miller delivers the intriguing, never-before-told story of how Theodore Roosevelt saved American Football—a game that would become the nation’s most popular sport. Miller’s sweeping, novelistic retelling captures the violent, nearly lawless days of late 19thcentury football and the public outcry that would have ended the great game but for a crucial Presidential intervention. Teddy Roosevelt’s championing of football led to the creation of the NCAA, the innovation of the forward pass, a vital collaboration between Walter Camp, Charles W. Eliot, John Heisman and others, and, ultimately, the creation of a new American pastime. Perfect for readers of Douglas Brinkley’s Wilderness Warrior, Michael Lewis’s The Blind Side, and Conn and Hal Iggulden’s The Dangerous Book for Boys, Miller’s The Big Scrum reclaims from the shadows of obscurity a remarkable story of one defining moment in our nation’s history."
About Faces: Physiognomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain by Sharrona Pearl
"When nineteenth-century Londoners looked at each other, what did they see, and how did they want to be seen? Sharrona Pearl reveals the way that physiognomy, the study of facial features and their relationship to character, shaped the way that people understood one another and presented themselves.
Physiognomy was initially a practice used to get information about others, but soon became a way to self-consciously give information―on stage, in print, in images, in research, and especially on the street. Moving through a wide range of media, Pearl shows how physiognomical notions rested on instinct and honed a kind of shared subjectivity. She looks at the stakes for framing physiognomy―a practice with a long history―as a science in the nineteenth century.
By showing how physiognomy gave people permission to judge others, Pearl holds up a mirror both to Victorian times and our own."
Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounter from the Late-Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast by Paige Raibmon
"In this innovative history, Paige Raibmon examines the political ramifications of ideas about “real Indians.” Focusing on the Northwest Coast in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, she describes how government officials, missionaries, anthropologists, reformers, settlers, and tourists developed definitions of Indian authenticity based on such binaries as Indian versus White, traditional versus modern, and uncivilized versus civilized. They recognized as authentic only those expressions of “Indianness” that conformed to their limited definitions and reflected their sense of colonial legitimacy and racial superiority. Raibmon shows that Whites and Aboriginals were collaborators—albeit unequal ones—in the politics of authenticity. Non-Aboriginal people employed definitions of Indian culture that limited Aboriginal claims to resources, land, and sovereignty, while Aboriginals utilized those same definitions to access the social, political, and economic means necessary for their survival under colonialism.
Drawing on research in newspapers, magazines, agency and missionary records, memoirs, and diaries, Raibmon combines cultural and labor history. She looks at three historical episodes: the participation of a group of Kwakwaka’wakw from Vancouver in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago; the work of migrant Aboriginal laborers in the hop fields of Puget Sound; and the legal efforts of Tlingit artist Rudolph Walton to have his mixed-race step-children admitted to the white public school in Sitka, Alaska. Together these episodes reveal the consequences of outsiders’ attempts to define authentic Aboriginal culture. Raibmon argues that Aboriginal culture is much more than the reproduction of rituals; it also lies in the means by which Aboriginal people generate new and meaningful ways of identifying their place in a changing modern environment."
Roads Were Not Built for Cars by Carlton Reid
"In Roads Were Not Built for Cars, Carlton Reid reveals the pivotal—and largely unrecognized—role that bicyclists played in the development of modern roadways. Reid introduces readers to cycling personalities, such as Henry Ford, and the cycling advocacy groups that influenced early road improvements, literally paving the way for the motor car. When the bicycle morphed from the vehicle of rich transport progressives in the 1890s to the “poor man’s transport” in the 1920s, some cyclists became ardent motorists and were all too happy to forget their cycling roots. But, Reid explains, many motor pioneers continued cycling, celebrating the shared links between transport modes that are now seen as worlds apart. In this engaging and meticulously researched book, Carlton Reid encourages us all to celebrate those links once again."
Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867—1914 and Their Lasting Impact by Vaclav Smil
"The period between 1867 and 1914 remains the greatest watershed in human history since the emergence of settled agricultural societies: the time when an expansive civilization based on synergy of fuels, science, and technical innovation was born. At its beginnings in the 1870s were dynamite, the telephone, photographic film, and the first light bulbs. Its peak decade - the astonishing 1880s - brought electricity - generating plants, electric motors, steam turbines, the gramophone, cars, aluminum production, air-filled rubber tires, and prestressed concrete. And its post-1900 period saw the first airplanes, tractors, radio signals and plastics, neon lights and assembly line production. This book is a systematic interdisciplinary account of the history of this outpouring of European and American intellect and of its truly epochal consequences. It takes a close look at four fundamental classes of these epoch-making innovations: formation, diffusion, and standardization of electric systems; invention and rapid adoption of internal combustion engines; the unprecedented pace of new chemical syntheses and material substitutions; and the birth of a new information age. These chapters are followed by an evaluation of the lasting impact these advances had on the 20th century, that is, the creation of high-energy societies engaged in mass production aimed at improving standards of living."
The Garden of Invention by Jane S. Smith
"The wide-ranging and delightful history of celebrated plant breeder Luther Burbank and the business of farm and garden in early twentieth- century America
At no other time in history has there been more curiosity or concern about the food we eat-and genetically modified foods, in particular, have become both pervasive and suspect. A century ago, however, Luther Burbank's blight-resistant potatoes, white blackberries, and plumcots-a plum-apricot hybrid-were celebrated as triumphs in the best tradition of American ingenuity and perseverance. In his experimental grounds in Santa Rosa, California, Burbank bred and cross-bred edible and ornamental plants-for both home gardens and commercial farms-until they were bigger, hardier, more beautiful, and more productive than ever before. A fascinating portrait of an American original, The Garden of Invention is also a colorful and engrossing tale of the intersection of gardening, science and business in the years between the Civil War and the Great Depression."
Lost Victorian Britain by Gavin Stamp
"These days it seems obvious that stupendous constructions like St Pancras Station should be preserved and restored. But as recently as the 1970s Glasgow’s superb St Enoch’s Hotel made way for a shopping centre, and in the 1960s St Pancras itself was also earmarked for demolition. “Victorian” was a term of abuse. Add in wartime bombing by the Luftwaffe, and town planners eager for ring roads and multi-storeys, and the destruction is shocking. This poignant, angry book, full of stunning images, chronicles the catastrophic swathe cut through Britain’s architectural heritage by the twentieth century’s sustained antipathy to the nineteenth, entirely through buildings that have disappeared. Of the 200 notable examples of Victorian architecture illustrated in this book, from the magnificent Imperial Institute in Kensington to the vast country house of Eaton Hall, not one still exists. A photograph is all we have left. As well as architectural causes célèbres like the Euston Arch and London’s Coal Exchange, Gavin Stamp turns up many lesser-known Victorian buildings, like the extraordinary Gothic battlements of Columbia Market in East London, or Chatsworth’s soaring glasshouse streamlined like a spaceship. Surprising, chastening, but also uplifting, Lost Victorian Britain is a memorable journey back into a world that should never have been lost."
The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage
"The history of the telegraph - the men and women who made it - and its relevance to the current Internet debate Beginning with the Abbe Nollet's famous experiment of 1746, when he successfully demonstrated that electricity could pass from one end to the other of a chain of two hundred monks, Tom Standage tells the story of the spread of the telegraph and its transformation of the Victorian world. The telegraph was greeted by all the same concerns, hype, social panic and excitement that now surround the Internet, and Standage provides both a fascinating insight into the past and a context in which to think rather differently of today's concerns. Standage has a wonderful prose style and an excellent eye for the telling and engaging story. Popular history at its best."
The Corset: A Cultural History by Valerie Steele
"Named one of the Best of the Year 2001 by the Toronto Globe & Mail. Selected for inclusion in the Books to Remember list by the New York Public Library. Winner of the 2002 Milia Davenport Publication Award sponsored by the Costume Society of America."
The Fan: Fashion and Femininity Unfolded by Valerie Steele
"Fans have existed for at least five thousand years in cultures as diverse as ancient Egypt, India, and China. Arguably the most fascinating ornament in fashion, the fan has a deep and colorful history. The Fan is a visual celebration of the fan through time, richly illustrated with art culled from the world's premier fan museums and private collectors and with original photography. In an engaging overview of the fan throughout history, fashion curator Valerie Steele discusses the development of the fan, famous fans, fan artisans, and the fan's function at its height of glory during the eighteenth century and the Belle Epoque. The Fan is a beautiful, informative, and entertaining introduction to one of the most compelling fashion accessories of all time."
A Man's Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England by John Tosh
"Domesticity is generally treated as an aspect of women’s history. In this fascinating study of the nineteenth-century middle class, John Tosh shows how profoundly men’s lives were conditioned by the Victorian ideal and how they negotiated its many contradictions.
Tosh begins by looking at the experience of boyhood, married life, sex, and fatherhood in the early decades of the nineteenth century—illustrated by case studies representing a variety of backgrounds—and then contrasts this with the lives of the late Victorian generation. He finds that the first group of men placed a new value on the home as a reaction to the disorienting experience of urbanization and as a response to the teachings of Evangelical Christianity. Domesticity still proved problematic in practice, however, because most men were likely to be absent from home for most of the day, and the role of father began to acquire its modern indeterminacy. By the 1870s, men were becoming less enchanted with the pleasures of home. Once the rights of wives were extended by law and society, marriage seemed less attractive, and the bachelor world of clubland flourished as never before.
The Victorians declared that to be fully human and fully masculine, men must be active participants in domestic life. In exposing the contradictions in this ideal, they defined the climate for gender politics in the next century."
The Perfect Man: The Muscular Life and Times of Eugen Sandow by David Waller
"Eugen Sandow (1867-1925) was a Victorian strongman who was colossally famous in his day and possessed what was deemed to be the most perfect male body. He rose from obscurity in Prussia to become a music-hall sensation in late Victorian London, going on to great success as a performer in North America and throughout the British Empire. He was a friend to King Edward VII and was appointed Professor of Physical Culture to King George V. His physical culture system was adopted by hundreds of thousands around the world. He lost his fortune at the time of the First World War and he ended up being buried in an unmarked grave in Putney Vale Cemetery. There is lively interest in him on the web where his dumbells or chest-extenders sell for hundreds of pounds and an autographed photograph for thousands. Written with humour and insight into the popular culture of late Victorian England, Waller's book argues that Sandow deserves to be resurrected as a significant cultural figure whose life, like that of Oscar Wilde, tells us a great deal about sexuality and celebrity at the fin de siecle."
Censoring Queen Victoria: How Two Gentlemen Edited a Queen and Created an Icon by Yvonne M. Ward
"When Queen Victoria died, two gentlemen were commissioned with the monumental task of editing her vast correspondence. It would be the first time that a British monarch's letters had been published, and it would change how Victoria was remembered forever. The men chosen for the job were deeply complex and peculiar characters: Viscount Esher, the consummate royal confidant, blessed with charm and influence, but hiding a secret obsession with Eton boys and an incestuous relationship with his son; Arthur Benson, a schoolmaster and author, plagued by depression, struggling to fit in with the blue-blooded clubs and codes of the court. Together with King Edward VII these men would decide Victoria’s legacy. In their hands 460 volumes of the Queen’s correspondence became just three, and their decisions and — distortions — would influence perceptions of Victoria for generations to come."
The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story by Gavin Weightman
"On February 13, 1806, the brig Favorite left Boston harbor bound for the Caribbean island of Martinique with a cargo that few imagined would survive the month-long voyage. Packed in hay in the hold were large chunks of ice cut from a frozen Massachusetts lake. This was the first venture of a young Boston entrepreneur, Frederic Tudor, who believed he could make a fortune selling ice to people in the tropics.
Ridiculed at the outset, Tudor endured years of hardship before he was to fulfill his dream. Over the years, he and his rivals extended the frozen-water trade to Havana, Charleston, New Orleans, London, and finally to Calcutta, where in 1833 more than one hundred tons of ice survived a four-month journey of 16,000 miles with two crossings of the equator. The Frozen Water Trade is a fascinating account of the birth of an industry that ultimately revolutionized domestic life for millions of people."
Fern Fever: The Story of Pteridomania by Sarah Whittingham
"Of all the many passions and crazes in nineteenth-century gardening and natural history, none was as long lasting or as wide reaching as fern fever, or Pteridomania as it became known. The obsession with ferns was not confined to a few professional botanists but it affected men, women and children from all classes through the British Isles, the Empire and America.
Books and articles encouraged thousands to set out on fern forays. Their overwhelming desire to 'capture' a rare specimen led them to wade through streams, scale rock faces, descend gorges and lean over fast-flowing rivers. Accidents were common, sometimes fatal, and over-collecting and even fern stealing were rife.
Sarah Whittingham has explored verdant ferneries and Pulhamite grottoes throughout the land, read hundreds of Victorian works on ferns, and examined ferny items from Coalbrookdale benches to Royal Worcester pottery to reveal the incredible extent of the craze. She introduces the key players - John Lindsay, Nathaniel Ward, George Loddiges, Edward Newman, Thomas Moore - together with many others.
It was possible to live a life in ferns from the cradle to the grave: if you were to go to the seaside, visit the theatre, view an exhibition, decorate your house, read novels, play music and even spend time in hospital, you would come upon ferns and ferneries.
Fern Fever encompasses garden history, social history, and the decorative arts, illustrated with over 150 beautiful images from around the world. It includes a list of places to visit where you can experience the Victorian fern craze first hand today."
The Victorians, by A.N. Wilson
"The nineteenth century saw greater changes than any previous era: in the ways nations and societies were organized, in scientific knowledge, and in nonreligious intellectual development. The crucial players in this drama were the British, who invented both capitalism and imperialism and were incomparably the richest, most important investors in the developing world. In this sense, England's position has strong resemblances to America's in the late twentieth century.
As one of our most accomplished biographers and novelists, A. N. Wilson has a keen eye for a good story, and in this spectacular work he singles out those writers, statesmen, scientists, philosophers, and soldiers whose lives illuminate so grand and revolutionary a history: Darwin, Marx, Gladstone, Christina Rossetti, Gordon, Cardinal Newman, George Eliot, Kipling. Wilson's accomplishment in this book is to explain through these signature lives how Victorian England started a revolution that still hasn't ended."
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
"The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary -- and literary history. The compilation of the OED began in 1857, it was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane."
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
"She was only two feet, eight inches tall, but more than a century later, her legend reaches out to us. As a child, Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Warren Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and became the world’s most unexpected celebrity. Vinnie’s wedding captivated the nation, preempted coverage of the Civil War, and even ushered her into the White House. But her fame also endangered the person she prized most: her similarly sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie’s spotlight. A barnstorming novel of the Gilded Age, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is the irresistible epic of a heroine who conquered the country with a heart as big as her dreams—and whose story will surely win over yours."
Possession by A.S. Byatt
"Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as "a gifted observer, able to discern the exact details that bring whole worlds into being" and "a storyteller who could keep a sultan on the edge of his throne for a thousand and one nights," A. S. Byatt writes some of the most engaging and skillful novels of our time. Time magazine calls her "a novelist of dazzling inventiveness."
Possession, for which Byatt won England's prestigious Booker Prize, was praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic when it was first published in 1990. "On academic rivalry and obsession, Byatt is delicious. On the nature of possession—the lover by the beloved, the biographer by his subject—she is profound," said The Sunday Times (London). The New Yorker dubbed it "more fun to read than The Name of the Rose . . . Its prankish verve [and] monstrous richness of detail [make for] a one-woman variety show of literary styles and types." The novel traces a pair of young academics—Roland Michell and Maud Bailey—as they uncover a clandestine love affair between two long-dead Victorian poets. Interwoven in a mesmerizing pastiche are love letters and fairytales, extracts from biographies and scholarly accounts, creating a sensuous and utterly delightful novel of ideas and passions."
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
"On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: "the eye" to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.
Mary soon finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset.
Remarkable Creatures is a stunning historical novel that follows the story of two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the scientific world forever."
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
"At the heart of this panoramic, multidimensional narrative is the compelling struggle of a young woman to lift her body and soul out of the gutter. Faber leads us back to 1870s London, where Sugar, a nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, yearns for escape to a better life. Her ascent through the strata of Victorian society offers us intimacy with a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters. They begin with William Rackham, an egotistical perfume magnate whose ambition is fueled by his lust for Sugar, and whose patronage brings her into proximity to his extended family and milieu: his unhinged, childlike wife, Agnes, who manages to overcome her chronic hysteria to make her appearances during “the Season”; his mysteriously hidden-away daughter, Sophie, left to the care of minions; his pious brother, Henry, foiled in his devotional calling by a persistently less-than-chaste love for the Widow Fox, whose efforts on behalf of The Rescue Society lead Henry into ever-more disturbing confrontations with flesh; all this overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all stripes and persuasions."
Emma by Kaoru Mori
(A beautiful graphic novel series, suitable for teenagers and adults alike.)
"Calling upon his former governess, William Jones, gentleman, is startled when his knock is answered by an uncommonly beautiful servant, the soft-spoken Emma. Throughout his visit, William's eyes drift to the maid whenever she enters the room, and he contrives to meet Emma socially as she goes about her errands. But London society is a web of strict codes and divisions. For the son of a wealthy merchant, seeking out a working-class girl is simply not done! William's father plans for his son to marry into the peerage and elevate the Jones family to greater heights, but although William says and does what is expected of him, he longs only for Emma's company..."
Gentlemen in England by A.N. Wilson
Documenting the Self: Victorian Diaries and 21st-Century Social Media (BBC) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04vdy0y/broadcasts
Online Dating and the Lonely Hearts Ad (BBC)
And of course, don't forget Sarah's books!
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