Black Performers in the Nineteenth-Century Circus

The circus has always been, and still is, inclusive by nature. The ‘modern’ circus, founded by Philip Astley over 250 years ago, was underpinned by a wealth of talented black performers. Some became famous in their own right, and were very much in the public eye; their names became household words. Some had just a single named reference in an advertisement, and others were just mentioned by their ethnicity. What has to be remembered, applauded, and celebrated is that in

Read more

The Tricycle and the Camera: New Technologies for Self-Determination

Starting in the late 1870s, the leisure opportunities of a growing body of affluent middle-class photographers were expanded by the development and mass production of new photography and transport technologies: the dry-plate camera and three- or four-wheeled self-propelled machines (tricycles or quadricycles). While the former had removed the need to attend to the glass-plate immediately before and after exposure, as was the case with the wet collodion process, the latter enabled a new experience of mobility as an alternative to

Read more

Picturing the Angel Outside the Home

When one pictures Victorian advertising, a fairly consistent image springs to mind: that of trade cards depicting corset-clad white women alongside their respectable husbands and cherubic children. These advertisements are intended to ensnare the morally sensible “angel of the house,” and persuade her that a particular brand of soap or soup or other household product is guaranteed to enrich her family’s wholesome lifestyle. But the Victorian era also gave rise to two earth-shaking consumer products that were intended to transport

Read more

Flora Shaw: The Times, imperial travels, and a woman in empire

Flora Shaw was a journalist and Colonial Editor of The Times, 1893-1900. She secured this position due to a widely praised series of ‘Letters’ from South Africa, penned during the first of a number of visits to South Africa, Australia, and Canada in the following decade. Shaw visited South Africa and Australia in 1892-3, Canada and the Klondike in 1898, and South Africa in 1900 and 1902. Shaw was an evangelising imperialist, as Dorothy O. Helly and Helen Callaway have

Read more

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.

Read more

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

Read more

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,

Read more

Julia Stephen: From Freshwater Bay To The Lighthouse

Pity has no creed. We are bound to these sufferers by the tie of sisterhood and while life lasts we will help, soothe, and, if we can, love them. Women are not all blind followers of men. They have power to think as well, and they will not weaken their power of helping and loving by fearlessly owning their ignorance when they should be convinced of it. Women should not reject religion merely because they desire to please men. Man

Read more

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

Read more

‘[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

Read more