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London In The Nineteenth Century: 'A Human Awful Wonder of God' [Paperback]

Jerry White
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Jan 2008
London in the nineteenth century was the greatest city mankind had ever seen. Its wealth was dazzling. Its horrors shocked the world. As William Blake put it, London was 'a Human awful wonder of God'. It was a century of genius - of Blake, Thackeray and Mayhew, of Nash, Faraday, Disraeli and Dickens. Jerry White's dazzling book is the first in a hundred years to explore London's history over the nineteenth century as a whole. We see the destruction of old London and the city's unparalleled suburban expansion. We see how London absorbed people from all over Britain, from Europe and the Empire. We see how Londoners worked and played. Most of all, we see how they tried to make sense of their city and make it a better place in which to live. Emerging clearly from this eloquent and richly-detailed overview is the London we see about us today.

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London In The Nineteenth Century: 'A Human Awful Wonder of God' + London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People + London In The Eighteenth Century: A Great and Monstrous Thing
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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (3 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712600302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712600309
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 83,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A dazzling and dramatic narrative of a century of high-speed change... A must-have for anyone seriously interested in London's history" (Melanie McGrath Evening Standard)

"Magisterial... Using fragmented maps as a visual thread connecting the separate sections, White manages, street by street, to decode the crumbling cobblestones and invest fatigued and overly familiar ground with unexpected meaning" (Kelly Grovier Observer)


Jerry White is to London as Boswell is to Johnson... London in the Nineteenth Century should sit on your shelf alongside Debrett's, the Oxford dictionary, and your complete set of Dickens

" (Frances Wilson Daily Telegraph)

"White's magnificent prequel to his Wolfson History Prize-winning London in the Twentieth Century... Charged with infectious enthusiasm for its subject, this is an unmissable treat which ought to be top of every Londoner's reading list" (Time Out)

"A brilliant account of the bursting, overflowing city, with its glittering wealth and harrowing poverty... A work of undoubted academic authority...yet it is also a poetic evocation" (Financial Times)

Book Description

The first book in a hundred years to examine the greatest century in London's history.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
271 of 279 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astounding history: a pleasure to read. 18 Jan 2007
What a book! I don't read much history, so I was not thrilled when a friend gave me London in the Nineteenth Century as a present. I confess I had never heard of Jerry White. I dipped into it for form's sake one Friday evening, and ended up locking myself away for the rest of the weekend until I had read all 600-odd pages. Generally, reading history feels like work: not in this case. It is written with an obvious passion for its subject, and crammed with nuggets you want to read aloud to someone. It's completely free of the pompousness I associate with academic historians, and I developed a real liking for the author. He doesn't impose his intellect and learning on you, but shares it with you, so that you can't help catching his enthusiasm. It seems fluent and effortless, despite the compendious knowledge and research that went into it. The sources (all meticulously referenced) are innumerable - it's when you dip into the index and footnotes that you really begin to realise what a feat of learning this is. I can't begin to pick out favourite bits: there are too many. But where I really got hooked was in the second part, "People". At that point, it came fully alive for me. The book has a democratic feel, because so much of the material relates to the common people. Throughout the remaining chapters on "Work", "Culture" (with a fascinating study of shared and private pleasures), and "Law and Order", it read as easily and engagingly as a novel.

As soon as I finished this I had to find myself a copy of the same author's "London in the Twentieth Century" - which, scandalously, is out of print! I eventually tracked it down on the internet, and found to my delight it is every bit as good. I can only hope he will tackle another century or two.
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109 of 113 people found the following review helpful
The breadth of this book would be astonishing enough if it wasn't also for it's coherent structure and - most importantly - lively writing. Mr White knows his subject, but he doesn't lose his thread beneath a mountain of statistics or (Peter Ackroyd take note) lose himself in flights of fancy. He brilliantly portrays, above all, the human drama which makes this such an exciting - and unique - period of history.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - History made real 13 Mar 2008
By helen
This book is both informative and entertaining. What I find particularly fascinating are the various similarities to own period. Problems such as overcrowding, street crime - even the fact that statistically at least, crime figures fell during the course of the century, but people "felt" surrounded by it - seems to be remarkably familiar. I for one have to confess to a much more "cosy" image of the Victorian period (probably fuelled by too many middle-class novels and an "Upstairs Downstairs"-type of preconception. So it was most educational to be told how things really were.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating 14 April 2009
By John Brooke VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It helps if you're familiar with London, or parts of London (as another reviewer has noted, there aren't many maps involved although there are small area maps at the start of each chapter). But even if you're not, the wealth of information in this exhaustive study, especially the people-related stuff makes this a book that you just keep on turning the page to see what new little nugget comes up. It's a complete treasure trove of information for those, like me who delight in what is probably useless knowledge (though you never know, it may come in useful for Trivial Pursuit, Mastermind or the like).

If you live or work in London you're almost certain to find something fascinating in here; for example, I discovered that the square where the office I was working in last year is located was where all the "penny dreadfuls" were produced and published. Totally useless to know, but it pleases me to think that these have now been replaced by a news agency office and an office of one of the "big four" accountants, who are probably cooking up something just as lurid as their predecessors.

On the basis of this I've also ordered Jerry White's study of 20th century London and hope it will be just as entertaining and fascinating.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Find 9 May 2009
Having decided to take a break from my Family Tree compilation, in favour of getting to know the relatives. This book has raised my consciousness to how my forebears developed. With a wish list of many dozens Victorian, London and nineteenth century books to choose from, I am pleased this is one of the first 10 or so that I got. I shall continue now in my quest to turn Public Record and Census stats into real life people.

Thoroughly recommended and selfishly I will not be lending this out.

Glyn White
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Near Perfect 15 Feb 2009
The best book on the history of London that I have read since the same author's London in the Twentieth Century. Epic in scope and endlessly fascinating, microscopic in detail yet always entertaining, this is a great achievement.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magisterial Page-turner 17 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
K.S. William's has said it all about Jerry White's book. Touching upon every aspect of the development, structure and life of the city - the physical development and redevelopment of its buildings, infrastructure, transport and services - hospitals, schools, sanitation, charities and poverty relief - the evolution of local government, policing, crime, punishment, trade and industry, demographics and sociology - the life and times of its people, mainly from the viewpoint of the working class, then the vast bulk of its population, political movements and organised labour. Amusingly, the author gently satiries the churches and the endeavours of the multiplicity of rival evangelical movements to save souls and cure society's ills.

A vast mass of research has been digested into a book that is page-turningly interesting. In it, all the seeds of the present-day city can been seen growing. It makes the 19th century feel truly alive and real.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative
An excellent and informative book. Plenty of statistics, which is good for those who are, like myself, using it for research as well as pleasant reading.
Published 1 month ago by Mollie Lyons
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much information!
You can only applaud Jerry White's fine, detailed research in what is a gigantic subject matter, but to be honest I found this book a bit of a slog. Read more
Published 10 months ago by G. J. Marsh
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book
I read Jerry White's book on the 18th century and enjoyed it very much so I thought I would read this one as well. Although a good read I didn't enjoy it as much. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. M. A. Robbins
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read
a very well written book that makes an enjoyable read
of course you will want to read the other two of the trilogy
Published 19 months ago by terry s
5.0 out of 5 stars As if you were there...
An excellent account of 19th Century London, its people and its development. Jerry White's writing draws you into the book and actually makes the reader feel as if they are... Read more
Published 20 months ago by gingerjasper
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge....
I am so impressed by Jerry White's totally absorbing, accessable and fascinating history of 19thC London, how it worked and lived, how it developed, it's laws and lawlessness,... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Ellie Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars London in the Nineteenth Century: 'A Human Awful Wonder of God'
I had my doubts about this book at first because I immediately came across familiar material (probably because I have read many books on this subject), however my doubts were... Read more
Published on 29 April 2012 by ALAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Astoundingly comprehensive
Having lived in London all my life, this book looked like a very interesting purchase. It is a staggering achievement with a huge amount of information, mostly presented in a... Read more
Published on 22 Nov 2011 by Giovanni Antonioni
5.0 out of 5 stars A Joy of a book.
What a wonderful book!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just couldn't stop reading it. There were so many details, names, events and places that I had heard my father talk about and that had to do... Read more
Published on 20 April 2011 by Tina Wootton Dunford
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
This book was magic. The descriptions of London in the 19th century because of the research is outstanding. Read more
Published on 11 Feb 2011 by Mike Hewitt
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