How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman


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How to be a Victorian, by Ruth Goodman is a real treat for hardcore history fans.  Indeed, I feel the title might have been chosen cleverly to catch the eyes of odd people like me, who might just view this as a dream made into reality.  A deeply detailed and comprehensive exploration of every day Victorian life, it reads surprisingly easily, almost like a novel.  Goodman writes this book from first-hand experience after living for a year on a Victorian farm (this experience was also televised for the BBC) and also from evidently extensive research.  It is full of fascinating facts, explanations and anecdotes, as well as Goodman’s own views all manner of things from what the most comfortable corset was, to how long one can go without washing one’s hair.

The book is set out so that it follows a typical day for most people in Victorian England, beginning with the morning routine of washing (or not) and dressing, and then the journey into work; and ends with a chapter entitled ‘Behind the Bedroom Door’.

Some of the most meaningful explanations in this book come from the personal histories of people who actually lived during the 1800s, or from the objects they have left behind, which reveal so much.  If you are a keen historian, you will lap up the stories that explain some of our own habits, as well as all of the facts about areas of Victorian life you might never have even considered before.

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