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Victorian Bloomsbury

Victorian Bloomsbury [Kindle Edition]

Rosemary Ashton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


Selected as a "Choice" Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 in the Humanities Category.--Outstanding Academic Title"Choice" (01/21/2014)

Product Description

While Bloomsbury is now associated with Virginia Woolf and her early-twentieth-century circle of writers and artists, the neighborhood was originally the undisputed intellectual quarter of nineteenth-century London. Drawing on a wealth of untapped archival resources, Rosemary Ashton brings to life the educational, medical, and social reformists who lived and worked in Victorian Bloomsbury and who led crusades for education, emancipation, and health for all.

Ashton explores the secular impetus behind these reforms and the humanitarian and egalitarian character of nineteenth-century Bloomsbury. Thackeray and Dickens jostle with less famous characters like Henry Brougham and Mary Ward. Embracing the high life of the squares, the nonconformity of churches, the parades of shops, schools, hospitals and poor homes, this is a major contribution to the history of nineteenth-century London.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2070 KB
  • Print Length: 395 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 030015447X
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (14 Sep 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00942HS46
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #365,994 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A wonderfully clear-eyed account of the people and places that created the Bloomsbury of the British Museum, University College London, and the most seductive squares of the capital. Ashton takes her readers on an engrossing journey as she charts the genesis of one of London's most celebrated areas, largely a creation of British (Scots-English) Enlightenment culture, spearheaded by mavericks like Lord Brougham, prolific writer, Lord Chancellor of England, inventor of the Riviera, and founding father of University College London (and that is not all!); and of course a satirists' and cartoonists' dream as his name was pronounced 'broom' - you can imagine the rest. If you thought that Bloomsbury meant Virginia Woolf and her circle, you may need to think again. Ashton shows exactly why Woolf and the Bloomsbury group would cluster here one day because the real Bloomsbury as the intellectual centre of London was forged in the white heat of Victorian radical idealism, from Brougham, Bentham, and Crabb Robinson to Passmore Edwards and Mrs Humphry Ward, much of it inspired by the godless place in Gower Street, UCL.

This book is immensely readable and Ashton wears her learning lightly. She has a great knack for quoting suggestively from the diaries and letters of the period. The put-down of Thomas Carlyle by the acidic Anthony Panizzi over Carlyle's request for a private reading space in the British Museum is as funny as it is gratifying (to the rest of us if not to Carlyle). Not that many of us would be able to found the London library in response, as Carlyle did. This beautifully written (and handsomely produced) book is hugely informative about Bloomsbury as a physical, mental, and scientific space, growing out of the green lands of the Duke of Bedford's estates at the beginning of the 19th century. It is a journey of discovery bursting with fascinating details about buildings, streets, and people.
A gem.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloomsbury before the Bloomsbury Group 21 Jan 2013
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
We tend today to identify the Bloomsbury area of London as a progressive and innovative locale because of the Bloomsbury group of the early 20th century--Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, and Vanessa Bell to name just a few. However, we learn from this interesting book, that 19th century Bloomsbury (the area roughly around the British Museum) was a hot spot for progressive ideas as well and set the stage for the later group.

The author, a distinguished professor at University College London (UCL), lays out in a concise introduction not only the history of this area, but also the general outline the chapters to follow. The first chapter, and the central focus of the book, is the formation of UCL (originally the University of London) in 1828. Unlike the Oxbridge universities, it was to be secular and focus on more modern subjects, like English and history rather than the traditional classics emphasis of British higher education. The secular focus, requiring no religious tests, led to charges of UCL being "godless," prompted the foundation of rival King's College in London (emphasizing Christianity), and generated all manner of difficulties.

The theme of educational innovation continues in the second chapter on the fascinating "Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge." Through its many inexpensive publications, such as the "Penny Magazine," it sought to disseminate practical education to the masses. The author next discusses a prime area for Bloomsbury innovation, medical education and hospital services. Both Robert Liston, who performed the first surgery in Britain, and Joseph Lister, inventor of antiseptic techniques, were affiliated with UCL. This was a particularly important development since England previously had no medical schools, and medical students had to be trained at one of the fine Scottish Universities.

An important chapter discusses the British Museum, one of the great cultural resources of the world, and how it impacted on the other educational and cultural institutions in Victorian Bloomsbury. Eventually, the Museum expanded its hours and services so that working-class people could benefit from them. The author also discusses religious developments in Bloomsbury, which became the location for a vareity of dissenting religious groups. She discusses in detail the Catholic Apostolic Church and Edward Irving, who was accused of encouraging speaking in tongues, fanaticism and hysteria among his followers.

Education for women was another major innovative activity during this period, especially in the areas of art, teaching and medicine. The Ladies' College (1849), the Slade School of Art, and the New Hospital for Women are all discussed. Kindergarten teaching first appeared in Britain in Bloomsbury during this period. Finally, the author discusses education for the working class through the Working Men's College (1848) and the Working Women's College (1864). The growth of a skilled working class and white collar workers demanded that suitable educational resources be made available, and Bloomsbury met the challenge. Finally, the author discusses work and play in Bloomsbury, especially centered in the Passmore Edwards Settlement facility opened in 1897. It too was a center for education, including disabled child students.

The book runs some 380 pages in length, including 35 pages of end notes, a 12 page bibliography and an index. It also contains 44 very interesting illustrations, as well as the dust jacket cover art, to help the reader visualize key locales and actors. My only criticism of the book is that the author sometimes goes into too extensive detail on various subjects, reflective of her stupendous research. But given the importance of her topic, I always opt for too much analysis rather than too little.
5.0 out of 5 stars London Blooms 24 July 2013
By Christian Schlect - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A quite good effort on a leading section of London during the 19th century. While at times the author, the very knowledgeable Rosemary Ashton, dips a little too far into detail, especially as to the street addresses of specific structures located in historical Bloomsbury, this is a book worth reading.

Those interested in the history of liberal social, medical, and educational causes and the general improvement of a poor urban society as seen through the lens of one special section of London will enjoy this work. I especially appreciated learning for the first time about two exceptional and good people, Passmore Edwards and Mary Ward.

If nothing else, a reader of this book will get to know the origins and history of the wonderfully named "Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge."
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