Panacea, poison and psychopharmacology: the lure of laudanum

In the first half of the nineteenth century, many opiate preparations were marketed towards females. In fact, many were branded using the names of women, for example: ‘Mrs Winslow’s soothing syrup’ and ‘Mrs Bailey’s quieting syrup.’ Hardly surprising then that opium, particularly laudanum, was a popular choice for women for most of the century. The mass production of opiates in this way shows how society gave credence to the idea that opium and laudanum were able to relieve most ailments.

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Wish You Were Here: Victorian women pioneers of travel photography

In September 1835, Constance Talbot wrote to her husband asking if he would be taking his small experimental “mousetrap” cameras on a visit to Wales. She remarked, “It would be charming for you to bring home some views.”[1] Four years later, William Henry Fox Talbot announced his invention of Photogenic Drawing at the Royal Society, London, and started the extraordinary creative phenomenon we know now as positive / negative photography. We all take photography for granted: it’s an indispensable, ubiquitous

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Sarojini Naidu, Cultural Exchange and Anti-Imperialism

Sarojini Naidu was a nineteenth century poet and political activist. Her upbringing was, in a sense, privileged because she was born into a middle-class family of well-educated Brahmins. Her father was a scientist and her mother a Bengali poet, so she also had strong literary ties. This gave her the space and opportunity to write and develop her English poetry and yet this was not the sum of her ambition. She used her connections, English education and social standing to

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Credit to any Country: E. H. Bostock and Scotland’s first Zoo & Variety Circus

If one thinks of Scotland and zoos, the Edinburgh Zoo automatically springs to mind. This zoological park opened in 1913 and is world-famous for its captive breeding programme and conservation work. However, it was certainly not the first zoo in Scotland. This credit must go to the Scottish Zoo and Variety Circus, established in Glasgow in 1897 by Edward Henry Bostock. Born in 1858 in Buckinghamshire, Bostock came from a family of menagerie owners. Collections of wild and exotic animals

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Joseph Hillier: The forgotten ‘Gentleman of Colour’ of the Victorian Circus

The Victorian era was the golden age of the circus. A popular form of entertainment for the masses, it embraced all classes of society; from the lowly paid factory worker to the aristocracy, and even royalty. Everybody seemed to love the circus. By the time that Queen Victoria became monarch of the United Kingdom, the circus had been in existence for almost 70 years. From its humble roots with Philip Astley on the banks of the river Thames in London,

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The Industrial Devolution podcast

The Industrial Devolution podcast is a new project by Dr. Tobias Wilson-Bates that seeks to think through many of the systems, practices, and aftereffects of the nineteenth century. In its first episode, Dr. Pearl Chaozon-Bauer and Dr. Sabrina Gilchrist lend their expertise to an exploration of the role dance plays in Jane Austen’s Emma (1815). By examining the text, the project seeks to explore how dance scenes’ narrative gravity was not only a product of good writing, but also a

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‘[T]he Dickensesque run mad’: Continuities and Ruptures in the History of the ‘Dickensian’

This blog post reflects on Dickens’s legacy as captured in the term ‘Dickensian’, from early uses of the term to what the events of 2020 might mean for study of his afterlife. It also introduces a new open access edited collection, Dickens After Dickens (White Rose UP, 2020), which explores some of the forms in which Dickens’s influence has manifested from the nineteenth century to the present, from his influence on writers including Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, William Faulkner and Donna Tartt

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 “Going Off” in Fat Victorian Novels

I recently picked up a long Victorian novel that has long been on my list, Margaret Oliphant’s 1866 Miss Marjoribanks. It features a protagonist who recalls Jane Austen’s Emma, the spoiled, clever, and maddening Lucilla Marjoribanks (pronounced “Marchbanks”), who is determined to have her way in everything as she navigates through a marriage plot in a sleepy provincial mid-Victorian English town. Miss Marjoribanks is a good pandemic read for the comfortable satisfactions it offers as a sprawling realist novel that

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A Tale of Two Whitechapels: Jack the Ripper and the Canonical Five in Contemporary True Crime

It wasn’t the best of times, and it wasn’t the worst of times. For Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Cate Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly, Whitechapel, London in 1888 was the end of times. Known as “the canonical five” of Jack the Ripper’s victims, these women—largely invisible to London culture during their lives—can’t rest in their deaths. For 130 years writers, criminologists, armchair detectives, filmmakers, and artists have studied and reproduced all of the blood-soaked details of their murders

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Lady Clementina Hawarden: photographic pioneer

Next to a window with shafts of light providing shadowy illumination into a sparsely furnished room stands an adolescent girl. There is a look of casual awkwardness about her, yet she has an enigmatic stare towards the camera, showing a degree of trust shared between herself, the model and the photographer.  Beyond the window is a blurred view of the city, lost in the power of the intimacy of the dramatic pose struck by this girl, the subject of the

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