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Articles on Victorian era

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January is named after the two-faced Roman god Janus, and the Victorians understood this has long been a season of looking backward as much as forward, and not just in search of lessons. (Shutterstock)

How 19th-century Victorians’ wellness resolutions were about self-help — and playful ritual fun

The 1859 book ‘Self-Help’ by Scottish journalist and physician Samuel Smiles was written in bite-sized pieces reminiscent of today’s wellness and lifestyle New Year tips.
Spirit photograph by William Hope, taken around 1920. (National Media Museum Collection/Flickr)

Spirit photography captured love, loss and longing

Today viewers may be preoccupied by the methods used by spirit photographers, but spirit photographs had a notable impact on the bereaved who commissioned the portraits.
The Jewish Museum’s Purim Ball at the Park Avenue Armory in 2015 in New York City. Andrew Toth/Getty Images

How New York’s 19th-century Jews turned Purim into an American party

In the 19th century, Purim became an occasion to hold fancy dress parties, the proceeds from which were given to charities. These parties helped American Jews gain a standing among the elite.
Dotheboys Hall, from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. Illustration by ‘Phiz’ (Hablot K. Browne). Image scan and text Jacqueline Banerjee, Associate Editor, Victorian Web

Charles Dickens and the push for literacy in Victorian Britain

Dickens’s novels highlighted the poverty of education for the working classes. The all-important Education Act was finally passed in the year of his death.
Crinolines, by design, made physical contact nearly impossible. Hulton Archive/Stringer via Getty Images

The fashionable history of social distancing

In the past, maintaining physical distance was an important aspect of public life – and clothes played a big role.
Image from ‘Criminal man, according to the classification of Cesare Lombroso’ (1911). Internetarchivebookimages/Flickr

How tattoos became fashionable in Victorian England

We may think tattooing is a modern phenomenon, but the reasons for its popularity are not dissimilar to those seen in the prisons and convict ships of the Victorian era.
Visitors walk through Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s installation ‘Fireflies on the Water.’ maurizio mucciola/flickr

In dandelions and fireflies, artists try to make sense of climate change

Images of wildfires are powerful, but can make climate catastrophe seem like something spectacular and distant. So some artists are focusing on the plants and bugs in our immediate surroundings.

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