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The Victorians [Hardcover]

Jeremy Paxman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
Price: 20.38 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

12 Feb 2009

In The Victorians, Jeremy Paxman offers his personal take on the most important and influential period of our national past. Using the paintings of the era as his starting point - in his view, the one mode of Victorian art yet to be rescued from indifference - Paxman explores themes of family, urban life, industry, empire, and imagination to uncover truths (and explode some myths) about Victorian Britain.

To Paxman, these paintings were the television of their day, immensely popular visual narratives that attracted crowds by the hundreds of thousands: a single picture show featuring Elizabeth Butler's Balaclava (depicting survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade) drew 50,000 viewers, some of them openly weeping. The Victorians shows how artists like Butler, William Powell Frith, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Luke Fildes, and Ford Madox Brown were chronicling a world changing before their eyes, and his overview ranges across the whole of Victorian life and culture: from high gothic architecture to the birth of the football league, from the novels of Dickens to the technological marvels of Brunel.

Published to coincide with a landmark BBC series, The Victorians is an opinionated, informed, surprising, and hugely enthusiastic appraisal of the birth of modern Britain - a glorious reminder of how the Victorians made us who we are today.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; First Edition edition (12 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846077435
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846077432
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 25.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 302,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeremy Paxman was born in Yorkshire. He grew up thinking of himself as 'English' despite being one quarter Scottish. He is a journalist, best known for his work presenting Newsnight and University Challenge. His books Friends in High Places, Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life, The English, On Royalty and The Political Animal are all published by Penguin.

Product Description


"A wonderful introduction to the sheer vibrancy of the Victorian era... genuinely impressive" (Dominic Sandbrook The Evening Standard)

"A real contribution to art history, introducing the reader to a rich mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar... the book certainly taught me things about the Victorians that I either did not know or had not thought about with sufficient imagination" (A.N. Wilson The Guardian)

Book Description

Jeremy Paxman's unique exploration of Victorian society, through the paintings of the era

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
I was firstly surprised to find this was almost novel-like in size - most unusual for this type of book, but actually means it's easy to carry around/read on the train etc! Nervertheless there are reproductions of the paintings dotted throughout so it's not all text. It's clear Paxman is really enthused by his subject, which is always important when approaching topics of this kind - the Victorians are so frequently written about, but this provides an enjoyable and unique angle. Definitely deserves to be widely read - shows that history can be understood not simply as a lists of dates and events, but by appreciating the works of the people of the age in the form of paintings (or indeed, works of literature) and how they felt about, and portrayed, the age in which they lived.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Victorians 12 April 2009
By K.E.C
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jeremy Paxman's The Victorians is stuffed with famous and obscure paintings,all documented by title,artist and gallery,below the work,making the book incredibly easy to read. No flicking around to see the subject! The written work is learned but fast-flowing,revealing Paxman's knowledge and liking for Victorian Art,pithy rather than maudling. His research is nationwide,with works often pulled from the industrial cities, whose wealth reflected the surges in Victorian life.
A well documented passion, from an "unlikely" source,
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Having attended Mr Paxman's book launch at Ely Cathedral recently I am now a confirmed fan. Mr Paxman knows his subject inside out and his passion was evident from the start. An excellent accompaniment to the TV series, "The Victorians" is an entertaining and informative work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars more about art than history 18 May 2014
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this book Jeremy Paxman explains Victorian art through vignettes of history. Around half of the book is devoted to reproductions of paintings,and to a handful of photographs. The narrative explains the context for each illustration and the symbolism used in some of them.

The book is beautifully presented using high quality paper and is more about art than history - Victorian art is not to the taste of everyone, and there are better books of Victorian history than this if you are trying to gain a better understanding of the period.

Enjoyable enough reading though
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too disjointed 5 April 2014
After having just finished Paxman's 'Empire' which I really enjoyed and thought it a wonderful insight into that era I was looking forward to reading this book. Unfortunately, although there is excellent information etc, I found it difficult to concentrate on the actual text after being constantly led away by the description of the painting and artists, i.e. looking for each painting he described and thus halting the flow of the text. One way of improving the book would be to have the relevant paintings together with the relevant texts rather than stacking all the pictures in blocks. The reproduction of the paintings could also have been much improved by the printers. It's not a bad book but not as good as some of his others, especially Empire which everybody should read if interested in that particular historical period.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Victorians 22 Mar 2009
An excellent book to accompany a very polished and informative series. We were so pleased to be able to linger longer over the fascinating pictures brought to us by the programmes.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Victorians - Jeremy Paxman 26 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book complements the TV series admirably. Well written and with the supporting paintings reproduced clearly. To anyone at all interested in the social and commercial history of the Victorian era this book, by portraying it through the art of the time, is a must have.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but short 31 Jan 2013
Very quick social history through paintings. Very well written and researched of course, although too short. To me there were not enough paintings analysed and the ones chosen could have been described more in depth. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read and can be considered a starting point for further research on the topic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book
I stumbled across this in a library while teaching Victorian poetry. I'm no historian or art critic, and had been developing my knowledge of this period. Read more
Published 17 months ago by lyra
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging and opinionated book
I did not see this series on the TV, not having one (I believe it is just a passing fad) but several colleagues mentioned it to me. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Dr R
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel Paxman
The programme to which the book is linked was excellent, showing Paxman in a new light, revealing an unexpected passion and lifetime interest. Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2011 by RR Waller
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating history
a well-produced and very interesting book with excellent reproductions of paintings.There is much I didn't know about social affairs and several myths were exploded. Read more
Published on 16 July 2011 by J.enny Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars An extremely pleasant - not to say erudite - short excursion
I discovered Paxman's entertaining and informative style when I read his 'The English' and 'On Royalty'in quick succession, and this description of the paintings - subjects, style... Read more
Published on 3 April 2010 by Headley J. des Forges
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant panorama
I am an art HISTORIAN, so I was naturally interested in the Mr Paxman book, but there is a multitude books on the Victorian era on the market, so I was curious about it, but... Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2010 by Rajkowska Iwona
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could have been better
I'd have to start by saying that the book is not as good as the TV series: Paxman's on screen presentation of the subject matter has more of an edge and excitement to it that the... Read more
Published on 27 Aug 2009 by P. SKEATES
5.0 out of 5 stars Ra-ra the Pre-Raphs!
This is a romp through the most famous paintings of the Victorian period, with chapter groupings by subject area ('The Mob', women, fantasy etc) rather than by date or artist. Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2009 by William Watts
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic once it arrived!!!
The book is fantastic, however the product arrived over a month after ordering which was especially embarassing as it was for my fathers birthday!
Published on 24 May 2009 by L. V. Nicklin
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