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The Victorian City

The nineteenth century was a time of unprecedented transformation, and nowhere was this more apparent than on the streets of London. In only a few decades, London grew from a Regency town to the biggest city the world had ever seen, with more than 6.5 million people and railways, street-lighting and new buildings at every turn.

Charles Dickens obsessively walked London’s streets, recording its pleasures, curiosities and cruelties. Now, Judith Flanders follows in his footsteps, leading us through the markets, transport systems, sewers, slums, cemeteries, gin palaces and entertainment emporia of Dickens’ London. The Victorian City is a revelatory portrait of everyday life on the streets, bringing to life the Victorian capital in all its variety, vibrancy, and squalor. No one who reads it will view London in the same light again.

A Strange Business

Britain in the nineteenth century saw a series of technological and social changes which continue to influence and direct us today. Its reactants were human genius, money and influence, its crucibles the streets and institutions, its catalyst time, its control the market.

In this rich and fascinating book, James Hamilton investigates the vibrant exchange between culture and business in nineteenth-century Britain, which became a centre for world commerce following the industrial revolution. He explores how art was made and paid for, the turns of fashion, and the new demands of a growing middle-class, prominent among whom were the artists themselves.

While leading figures such as Turner, Constable, Landseer, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Dickens are players here, so too are the patrons, financiers, collectors and industrialists; lawyers, publishers, entrepreneurs and journalists; artists’ suppliers, engravers, dealers and curators; hostesses, shopkeepers and brothel keepers; quacks, charlatans and auctioneers.

Hamilton brings them all vividly to life in this kaleidoscopic portrait of the business of culture in nineteenth-century Britain, and provides thrilling and original insights into the working lives of some of our most celebrated artists.

White Trash

The New York Times Bestseller

A ground-breaking history of the class system in America, which challenges popular myths about equality in the land of opportunity.

In this landmark book, Nancy Isenberg argues that the voters who boosted Trump all the way to the White House have been a permanent part of the American fabric, and reveals how the wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlements to today’s hillbillies.

Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early nineteenth century and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics – a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society; they are now offered up as entertainment in reality TV shows, and the label is applied to celebrities ranging from Dolly Parton to Bill Clinton. Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been at or near the centre of major political debates over the character of the American identity.

Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society – where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility – and forces a nation to face the truth about the enduring, malevolent nature of class.

In Search of Us

In the late nineteenth century when non-European societies were seen merely as ‘living fossils’ offering an insight into how civilisation had evolved, anthropology was a thriving area of study. But, by the middle of the twentieth century, it was difficult to think about ideas of ‘savages’ and otherness when ‘civilised’ man had wreaked such devastation across two world wars, and field work was to be displaced by sociology and the study of all human society.

By focusing on thirteen key European and American figures in this field, from Franz Boas on Baffin Island to Zora Neale Hurston in New Orleans and Claude Lévi-Strauss in Brazil, Lucy Moore tells the story of the brief flowering of anthropology as a quasi-scientific area of study, and about the men and women whose observations of the ‘other’ were unwittingly to come to bear on attitudes about race, gender equality, sexual liberation, parenting and tolerance in ways they had never anticipated.

In an enthralling and perceptive narrative, Moore shows how, unintended though it was, these anthropologists were to become pioneers of a new way of thinking. Their legacy is less about understanding far away cultures and more about teaching people to look at one another ‘with eyes washed free from prejudice.’ Their intention may have been to explain the primitive world to the civilised one, but they ended up by changing the way we think about ourselves – at least for a time.

A Brief History of Puzzles

From ancient riddles to modern Sudoku, people have been fascinated by puzzles. Whether they are seen as a glorious waste of time, a harmless way to spend a train journey or a valuable way of exercising the mind, the lure of puzzles has been irresistible.

By using over a hundred of examples of the most mindbending, the most challenging, the most satisfying, or simply the most humorous of puzzles throughout the ages, William Hartston traces the development of brainteasers of all varieties and the increasing ingenuity of puzzle setters from ancient civilisations to modern puzzle crazes.