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The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,026 Ratings  ·  222 Reviews
A middle class home, circa 1850, of the sort that many people live in today, is the focus of Judith Flanders' book. The Victorian age is both recent and unimaginably distant. In the most prosperous and technologically advanced nation in the world, people carried slops up and down stairs; buried meat in fresh earth to prevent mould forming; wrung sheets out in boiling water ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
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Apr 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Do you thank God every day that you don't have to empty the chamber pot? Because you should.
This book taught me that Oh My GOD, I was SO born in the right century. I picked this book up in the gift shop of the Fricke Museum in NYC last summer and couldn't put it down. It is fascinating how women back in the day coped with all that house-cleaning. No wonder so many of them claimed to be "delicate." I would, too, if washing a load of laundry took two back-breaking days! Heck, I AM too delicate for that kind of work.

But more than just informing the reader of the daily chores, this book g
Ever wonder how the Victorians actually lived? This book uses the house plan as a method to show how life was lived in each room. Fascinating so far, and I've only gotten about 25 pages in!


I cannot overemphasize what an enjoyable book this was to read. The author has taken books that were written by the great writers of the Victorian era (Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter, Charles Darwin, John Ruskin), diaries and letters that they wrote, advertisements from
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-books
So this is a book basically designed and written specifically for me, if ever one was. It's a cultural history of middle-class Victorians, looking at what daily life was like for them by moving room by room through a typical house. Each chapter focuses on a different room, describing not only what was in the room but also the type of activities that happened in the room, sometimes with less than obvious links (of course the kitchen chapter looks at the types of food people ate, but for instance ...more
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: victorian
What an interesting read -- I couldn't put it down. The Victorians brought the idea of home to the forefront in a new way. They separated their world into a public sphere (work) and a private sphere (domesticity). The Victorian home was a refuge from commercial life with morals, and guidelines to protect the soul. Rooms were no longer multiple-purposed as in the 18th century, each had a different function.

Flanders goes through the Victorian home room by room, discussing everything historically a
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I'll open with the fact that I'm not a very eloquent or thorough reviewer. That being said, this book takes one through each room of the middle/upper-middle class Victorian home and explains (in great detail) what each specific room is used for. Sound dry? Not one bit, as we also learn a great deal about the relationship between Victorian family members as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and the significant other read it also with much vigor (and his main reading material consists of partic ...more
A masterful survey of the details of day to day life in Victorian England, with particular focus on London and the middle class. The author draws on medical texts, advertisements, diaries, letters, and even fiction to describe the quotidian drudgery, dirt, and mentality of that time and place. The past really does seem to be a different country--the assumptions (that wearing something because you liked it was strange and antisocial, that children needed bland food and few vegetables, that liking ...more
Gail Carriger
I wanted to love this book. I wanted it to be useful and a wonderful reference for writing about the Victorian era. Don't get me wrong, it is certainly full of extremely useful information but that information is impossible to access it is so badly organized. Most of the time I just find it unbelievably frustrating.

For one thing, there is no glossary so the reader is left to intuit the difference, for example, between a parlor and a drawing room. The index, while present, is not at all extensive
Dec 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a good comprehensive look at domestic affairs in Victorian England, organized by topic. The writing is lively and engaging, and the organization makes it easy for cross-referencing or a quick look at a piece of information. It does a good job at keeping a class-wide gaze, moving from what the poorest to the richest could expect from life. One of the things I like best about it is the overview of the domestic staff and how common they were; an invaluable resource for anyone interested in ...more
Burgundy Rose
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That was excellent. It took me a while to complete because most of it was done in small chunks during the holidays whenever my extended family would leave me alone for a couple of minutes. It was very easy to read and very informative. I seem to recall that Judith Flanders's style was a bit more convoluted with a ton more details (and figures, which I always find unnecessary in non fiction books, telling me what those figures show is enough) but I'm happy to say I was wrong. One of the best I've ...more
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was extremely awesome in many ways, but I had a few problems with it too.

The awesome first: it is an incredibly readable book that zips along at a good pace, focused on the lives of *actual* middle-class Victorians rather than the fantasy middle-classes of a lot of popular Victorian novels & domestic manuals. The book uses the home as its organising structure, talking about the material reality of each room but also what the room represented to its inhabitants & delving into the asp
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book that I unfortunately didn't have time to finish because two other people had requested it from the library and I didn't want to keep them waiting. I read about half of it. Chapters are arranged by rooms of the house, so I wanted to be sure to read the Bathroom chapter as I find the history of running water fascinating. It didn't disappoint, but I felt the author could have added a bit more on daily bathing habits. She did include some information about that, but certain ...more
This is a delightful and readable history of domestic life in Victorian England. I especially recommend it to readers of Victorian fiction - thanks to this book, I'll never read a fictional meal scene, or a sick-room scene, the same way again. Actually, one of the most delightful things about this book is the way the author relies on descriptions in Victorian fiction to help her flesh out this portrait of the Victorian home, which makes this almost as fun to read as the fiction she quotes from.

Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Non credo di essere una vera appassionata dell'epoca vittoriana (anzi, come sempre ho le idee molto confuse sulla storia) però è un'epoca normalmente associata a grandi scrittori quali Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, le sorelle Brontë, Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell e Anthony Trollope, solo per citarne alcuni che conosco, più o meno bene.

Questo saggio ci accompagna attraverso ogni stanza della casa vittoriana e, parallelamente, attraverso ogni stadio della vita umana spiegandoci - anche gra
Jan 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wendy by: Becki
Very interesting, though I thought it bogged down somewhere around the drawing room chapter, and the narrative device of structuring each chapter around one room of the house only sometimes worked--the parlor chapter didn't ever talk about the functions or furniture of a parlor (or explain how it was different from a drawing room, which I was most curious to learn), for instance.

I don't think I've read many books written or set during the Victorian Era, but I've read quite a few with characters
Tero Kuittinen
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is going to sound very unlikely - but this is one of those history books that gives you the frisson of really good science fiction. Victorians were bizarre creatures, but not necessarily for the reasons you would assume. The life just 140 years ago was truly strange, both for the wealthy and the poor. This period is kind of like the gateway to modernity. The lives of Victorians were in some ways very similar to ours; in others, they were brutally barbaric.

A fast, exciting read. Too bad most
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a terrific find! I was tempted to give it four stars for the tangents, but the thorough research really deserves all five; the bibliography has given me several ideas for further reading.
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good companion for "How to Be a Victorian" by Ruth Goodman. The books could not be more different in concept. Flanders is more scholarly, and as a result a lot less fun to read than Goodman. Goodman also actually has replicated Victorian life (food, clothing, etc) and the results are a lot of fun and compelling. Goodman's readers get a more sensory experience, while Flanders writes with the emotional distance of an historian. From Goodman, one gets a sense of the many limitations most ...more
Feb 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 3-star
It's easy to attribute everything to sex, especially when you're dealing with the past, and a hyper-sexualized viewpoint on the Victorians is a cliché. Those billowing gowns; those smothering draperies. Tight corsets, euphemisms, and fainting spells. Oh, my! So Flanders side-steps the issue entirely, via footnote. She just won't talk about it. There's an easy parallel here between her refusal to talk about sex and the Victorians' refusal to talk about sex. Call it ironic ...
Omitting such a huge
Austen to Zafón
What a great read! I was a little worried when i picked it up at the library and it was huge. It looked menacingly like a textbook and I thought, "Oh no, it's going to be dry and have piles of footnotes, or worse, endnotes." But it turned out to be an fascinating page-turner. Even the footnotes were engaging. And the author makes good use of advertisements, paintings, and quotes from contemporary novels, diaries & letters to support her claims. The book covers the lives of women (and to some ...more
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up intending to skim it and ended up reading it cover-to-cover, footnotes included. (Not the endnotes, where Flanders puts the many well-resourced but dry citations for her research. The footnotes she reserves for the very interesting tidbits, asides, and commentary and those are well integrated into each chapter. This is a fantastic approach that more research-based authors should consider.)

Flanders does an excellent job presenting her extensive research in a compelling way. The str
Judith Flanders does for the Victorian home what she did for the Victorian city without leaving out anything that went on in the homes or how the people conducted their lives.
Each room has a special purpose and that individuality is kept to that room. Today we combine rooms and are comfortable throughout the house. In Victorian times, there was a place for everything and time was strictly adhered to. Dress was especially important and, while more complicated for women than for men, it clearly
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately, I was not able to finish Inside the Victorian Home before I had to return it to the library but I enjoyed the part I was able to read. The book is best described as a social history of the 19th century but it uses the home as the lens for the discussion. Each chapter is devoted to a room found in the Victorian house. Flanders not only describes the function of the room and the typical furniture and decoration but she also describes the Victorian culture and attitudes.

I like that F
A book I have been wanting to read for quite a while, but hard to find in the US. I bought a copy at the Charles Dickens Museum while on vacation in London, and I'm happy I found it. I enjoyed reading about how an upper-middle-class house of the era was "correctly" furnished. The author explained attitudes on how each level of society had expectations of how to properly furnish a house depending on the job and salary of the husband. The book while aimed at the general public would only be of rea ...more
Bianca Klein Haneveld
In this really well-researched and thourough book I especially liked the tone of voice. Serious, meticulous in detail, but full of dry wit and with a hint of playfullness.
The book offers insight in almost every aspect of Victorian life, via copious descriptions of a typical Victorian home.
This study seems tot prove Flanders' statement that the Victorian era neither was so romantic nor everything so dilapidated as we might fancy. It is a bit of both. Just as in our era the wonderful co-exists wi
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I've always said that I don't much care who won the battle, I want to know what they had for breakfast, or what they did on Saturday nights...Nowadays they call that 'Social History' and it's quite popular.

This book is written to answer just those kinds of questions. The Victorians were keen on "a place for everything and everything in its place", so this book builds each chapter on a particular room in a 'typical' Victorian home. We get to hear about what these rooms looked like, how they were
Lisa Shafer
This book was fantastic!
Flanders walks the reader from room to room in a Victorian middle class home, enlightening and entertaining as she explains topics which vary from why Victorians were so obsessed with covering and draping everything to dealing with annoying solicitors. Her footnotes and research are thorough, widely varied, and useful. If she makes a claim, she backs it up!
The book is huge, and yet it is easily readable and flows if it had a plot.
I planned to skim it, ended up reading it
Rachel Crooks
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inside the Victorian Home fueled my imagination and wonderings like few books. I was enchanted to learn the intimate details of living in the 1800s, things I had never known before, such as that infants were fed on pureed bread and water and not milk, and that soaked tea leaves were placed on carpets in order to clean them. I learned how very cold houses were (often 50 degrees) and about the kinds of foods eaten and what a day consisted of. This isn’t a fictional book, of course, but it stirred ...more
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is a well-researched guide to Victorian life. It covers much more than just the household, but uses the household as an organizational tool to tell the story of what was happening in Victorian times, how people lived, and why. The footnotes and bibliography are extremely helpful, as well. Flanders has referenced seemingly hundreds of letters, journals, books, and even newspapers in her quest to describe the Victorian world. I though this book was enjoyable reading, and I will most like ...more
Shawn Thrasher
This one far exceeded my hopes, wonderfully - I could barely put it down. I never realized Victorian times were so filthy, grimy, dark, and generally unpleasant. Victorian era movies and television shows tend to leave out the carpets of cockroaches that invaded homes each night, the constant battle against soot and smell, the adulterated food, the absolutely unending battle with laundry. So well written and obviously well researched; I loved the inclusion fiction from the time as source material ...more
Christy B
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is invaluable to someone either simply curious about the home in the Victorian era or someone who wishes to write in that era. I fall into both categories. The book will immensely help me in my writing. I love how each room was split up by chapters and that there was even a chapter for 'The Street.'

This book very much de-romanticizes the era and provides a real look into the ins and outs of an upper middle-class home during a single day in Victorian times.
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Judith Flanders was born in London, England, in 1959. She moved to Montreal, Canada, when she was two, and spent her childhood there, apart from a year in Israel in 1972, where she signally failed to master Hebrew.

After university, Judith returned to London and began working as an editor for various publishing houses. After this 17-year misstep, she began to write and in 2001 her first book, A Cir
More about Judith Flanders...

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