Instructor: Professor Danielle Kinsey

Victorian London

Course Description: The image above is a promotional shot for the PlayStation 4 game The Order: 1886, which imagines Victorian London as a gloomy, steampunk metropolis teeming with werewolves, vampires, and electrified weaponry.  From Sherlock Holmes to Ripper Street, Dracula to Mr. Selfridge, we continue to be fascinated by nineteenth-century London as the “city of dreadful delight.”  This course will examine the causes and consequences of the city’s modernization between the 1830s and early 1900s as it was shaped by industrialization, fire, cholera and typhus epidemics, the threat of mass rebellion, hunger, migration, population pressure, and crime.  We will look at topics such as smell, sewage, and clean water infrastructure; the East End versus the West End; the rise of department stores and shopping culture; public museums, cemeteries and parks as places of leisure; London as the metropolitan center of a vast empire; gas lighting and electricity; ideas about crime and criminality; the politics of housing and mobility; industrialization and its consequences; photography and the city; sexuality; and animals in the city.  In addition to exploring the history of Victorian London, this course will also be an introduction to the methodologies of historical research, writing, and thinking.

Format: This is a 1.0 credit full-year seminar that will take place twice a week for 75-minute sessions.  The Fall semester will be devoted to learning about the content of Victorian London’s history through lecture, film and visual sources, readings, and group discussion.  The Winter semester will be about students conducting their own research, rendering creative and academic historical output, presenting their work, and engaging in peer review.  For two weeks in March 2018 the course will be delivered completely online via cuLearn.

Evaluation:  Attendance in this course will be mandatory. In exchange for this, there will be no midterm or final exams.  In the Fall semester, there will be a one-question quiz given at the end of each class that will be on the content of class that day, either the lecture material or the assigned readings. Students will be graded on their participation in class discussion in both Fall and Winter semesters. In the Fall semester there will be two 5-page written assignments, both pertaining to the projects students will be pursuing in the Winter semester.  In the Winter semester, students will be asked to complete two projects.  The first will be a creative one where they will design and defend some sort of plausible fiction on an aspect of Victorian London.  It could be a written, visual, musical, digital, or dance project, but regardless, it will be designed to deliver a sense of historical contingency to the audience. Originality as well as keen attention to historical context will be highly rewarded! The second project will be about conducting historical research and writing a 10-page research essay on an aspect of Victorian London.

Readings: Readings for this course have not been set but may include selections from:

  • Antoinette Burton, editor, Politics and Empire in Victorian Britain
  • Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England
  • M.K. Gandhi, An Autobiography
  • Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map
  • Y.S. Lee, The Spy in the House
  • Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor
  • Erika Rappaport, Shopping for Pleasure
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula
  • Judith Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight
  • Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet