New seminar series: Writing (about) history in the nineteenth century

We are pleased to announce the initial schedule for our next seminar series. Further talks and information will be added over the coming weeks. The series will take place on MS Teams and a calendar invite will be sent out shortly before each session to everyone who has registered. All are very welcome. If you have any queries, then please don’t hesitate to email or

1 Feb, 5-6pm, Elizabeth Ludlow, ‘Josephine Butler’s reconsideration of female saints: Eschatological conceptions of history and the dismantling of structural evil.’ Please click here to register. 

15th March, 5-6pm, Guinevere Glasfurd ‘Writing The Year Without Summer, 1816: climate crisis, fact and fiction’. Please click here to register. 

29 March, 5-6pm Will Abberley  ‘Sage Writing and Geological History: The Case of Hugh Miller’. Please click here to register. 

26 April, 5-6pm, Natalie Hanna, ‘Double Gazing: Viewing Medieval Politics through Nineteenth-Century Windows’. Please click here to register.

3 May, 5-6pm, Hilary Bedder, ‘A World of Continuous Process:  Entanglements between matter and human in Thomas Hardy’s novels.’ Please click here to register.

ARU 19th Century Studies Event on May 17th: Space and Place in Hardy and Dickens: The Vegetal and the Railway

Hilary Bedder and Edwin Marr, PhD researchers and 19th Century Studies unit members, will present on nineteenth-century literary spaces in the works of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens, focusing on the Vegetal and the Railways respectively. The schedule for the event will run as follows:

16:00-16:30 – Hilary Bedder – The Dynamic Vegetal: Spatiality, Change and Agency on Thomas Hardy’s Egdon Heath

16:30-17:00 – Edwin Marr – ‘A Great Industrial Exhibition’: The production of Railway Space in Charles Dickens’s Mugby Junction

17:00-17:30 – Questions and Discussion

This free event will take place on Microsoft Teams and is open to everyone. Please sign up by clicking here and using the ‘register’ button. Registration will close at 5pm on Friday 14th May and you will be emailed the link to join shortly before the event.

Talk by Emma Griffin on ‘Women, Men, and Money in Victorian Britain’: Tues 20th April

Professor Emma Griffin (University of East Anglia)  is giving a public talk via Teams on ‘Women, Men and Money in Victorian Britain’ on Tuesday 20 April 2021 from 5.30-7.  The details are here:

It is totally free but you need to book via Eventbrite.  This is very easy to do.  You can find details about how to book on the above link.

Emma Griffin is President of the Royal Historical Society and is therefore the nearest thing we have to a head of the historical profession in Britain.  She is also one of the leading historians of nineteenth century Britain.  Emma Griffin has written books on the Industrial Revolution, on working-class autobiography and on popular culture.  Her latest book, Bread Winner, looks at how ordinary families struggled financially in the nineteenth century despite the increase in national prosperity.  This will inform the talk that she is going to give us.  

Semester 2 Seminar Series

We are pleased to announce the schedule for our next seminar series. This will take place on MS Teams and a calendar invite will be sent out shortly before each session to everyone who has registered. All are very welcome. If you have any queries, then please don’t hesitate to email or

Feb 8, 12-1pm, Dr. Duc Dau (University of Western Australia): “Love is God”: The Song of Songs in the work of Charlotte Brontë and Thomas Hardy. Please click here to register.

Feb 22, 4.30-5.30pm, Dr. Brian Murray (King’s College, London):  The Journeys of ‘Kalulu’ and Saleh Bin Osman: African Travellers in the Imperial Archive. Please click here to register.

March 8, 4.30-5.30pm, Professor emer. Rosemary Mitchell (Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, Leeds Trinity University): A Catholic and Continental Catherine? Exploring Victorian Representations of Catherine of Aragon. Please click here to register.

March 22, 4.30-5.30pm, Dr. Stephen Basdeo (Richmond University, London): “A Plague of Blue Locusts”: Police Brutality in 1830s Newspapers, Periodicals, and Fiction. Please click here to register.

April 12, 4.30-5.30pm, Professor Fiona Price (University of Chichester): “Real, Solemn History”: Historical Fiction Before Scott. Please click here to register.

New talk by John Gardner

On Friday 8 January 2021 the University of Glasgow School of Critical studies held a symposium on 200 years of the 1820 Scottish Radical Uprising, which was attended by around one hundred people from all over the world. This online event included a lecture by Professor John Gardner on theatrical responses to a group of men attempting to take the Carron Iron Works in 1820. This became known as the Battle of Bonnymuir. You can view the lecture here

Rohan McWilliam, London’s West End: Creating the Pleasure District, 1800-1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020, £30).

Who invented fun?  When did the night out begin?  The myth of the Victorians as po-faced, pleasure-denying prudes dies hard despite the best efforts of nineteenth century scholars who has have endeavoured to show how varied and complex the period actually was.  Rohan McWilliam argues that one dimension of Victorian culture that we need to consider is the way in which it was responsible for the construction of distinct pleasure districts that have often proved enduring. 

            McWilliam has just published the first volume of a history of the West End of London, probably the world’s premier pleasure district and in many ways a Victorian invention.  This is the first ever history of the West End and covers the period from 1800-1914 (the second volume will move from the Great War to Covid).  Up to the early 1850s, the West End mainly served the entertainment needs of the aristocracy and the leisured class.  It was in the mid-Victorian years, however, that leisure was truly democratised and the West End was opened up to the multitude. Cockneys would make the jaunt ‘up west’ whilst shy suburbanites would prowl the streets in the hope of finding Bohemia.  Gilded Age millionaires from the United States would stay at the Savoy whilst earnest students crowded the balcony of Her Majesty’s Theatre to see Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s latest spectacular production of Shakespeare. Dr. Jekyll could saunter past the smart shops of Piccadilly but Mr Hyde knew that the flesh pots of Soho or the Haymarket were not far away.

            The book takes in the histories of theatres, sites of curiosity, grand hotels, restaurants, art galleries, casinos, panoramas, music halls, department stores, the sex industry and street life. By 1900 the West End was truly the heart of empire. It was also part of a cultural conversation with comparable areas in New York and Paris. Developments in entertainment in the centre of London had a global reach.  The West End is a lens through which we can view Victorian lives and see them in new ways.

            The book was reviewed by the leading historian of London, Jerry White in the Times Literary Supplement.  Professor White described it as ‘sparkling’ and ‘a triumph’.

Rohan McWilliam is Professor of Modern British History at Anglia Ruskin University and a former President of the British Association for Victorian Studies.

Engineering Romanticism

As previously outlined on this blog, Professor John Gardner is undertaking a Leverhulme funded project that investigates links between Engineering and Literary Cultures in the first half of the nineteenth century. Please click here to see the website for this project. Research progress is outlined here as well as past and forthcoming talks.

There are a number of talks coming up, some associated with this project and others with John Gardner’s other networks and job as editor of a journal on Charles and Mary Lamb. Here are the details:

  • 19 December, 14.00: Professor Greg Dart on the new edition of the works of Charles and Mary Lamb. This is a zoom Lecture, so please contact Felicity James at if you would like to attend.

Students and early career people can now join the Lamb Society for only £5 per year. This includes invites to all events and two copies of the journal each year. You can join here.

  • 8 January: 200 years of the 1820 Scottish Radical Uprising, including lecture by Professor John Gardner on the plays of 1820. You can get a ticket here:
  • 16 January, 14.00: Professor Rohan McWilliam on the West End in the Age of Charles Lamb. This is a zoom Lecture, so please contact Felicity James at if you would like to attend.
  • 4 March, 12.00: Professor John Gardner on ‘The Leverhulme project, Measurement, Tolerance and Form in the first half of the nineteenth century’. At Oxford Brookes, Materialities. Please contact Oxford Brookes here if you would like to attend.

Launching our new seminar series!

I am excited to announce that we have a new seminar series coming up. This will run through the academic year and begin with the three talks listed below. These will all take place on Zoom on Mondays between 5-6pm. If you would like to attend a session, please email or to request the Zoom link. All are very welcome.

9th November. Dr. Simon Marsden Apocalypse Not Quite Yet: Waiting for the End in Mid-Victorian Literature

23rd Nov Dr. Helen Kingstone How to get an overview on the Napoleonic Wars: from panorama paintings to Thomas Hardy’s The Dynasts.

7th Dec   Dr. Gavin Budge Charlotte M Yonge, Religious Conversion and Victorian Modernity

Introducing our new co-director, Koenraad Claes

Dr Koenraad Claes (@KoenraadClaes) joined the ARU English department in January to temporarily fill in for Prof John Gardner, who is currently away on his Leverhulme Research ProjectMachines Made of Words’. Before moving to Cambridge, Koenraad held research and teaching positions at Ghent University (Belgium) and the University of Kent. He will be with us teaching Romantic and Victorian literature in the BA and MA courses until July 2021, and as a new Co-Director for the 19th Century Studies Unit he looks forward to meeting you at events in the next academic year, whatever form these will take!

Koenraad’s research interests are mainly in long-nineteenth-century British literature and periodical history. His first monograph The Late-Victorian Little Magazine came out with Edinburgh University Press in 2018 but only last month became available in paperback, and he is working on his second book, which will discuss the relationship between conservative political discourse and narrative form between the Storming of the Bastille and the Second Reform Act (1867). He serves as managing editor of the open-access journal Authorship and as biographies acquisitions editor for Yellow Nineties 2.0; drop him a line if you want to talk about either.

The most fun thing Koenraad has done in a long time was this interview with our friends at the International Centre for Victorian Women Writers. Which Victorians would you want to Zoom with?