Fall 2019 - HIST 415 D100

Victorian Britain (4)

Class Number: 4851

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Mon, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Aaron Windel
    1 778 782-9605
    Office: AQ 6239
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: one or more of HIST 224, 314, 315.



A study of major developments and controversies -- social, cultural, political, religious, economic -- during the period of the rise of industrial and class society.


The Victorian period (roughly the 1830s-1900) saw the rise of Britain as the world's leading industrial and imperial power.  This seminar examines the social, political, cultural, and technological history of Britain during this crucial period.  Our themes and topics are wide-ranging.  We'll talk about the profound effects of industrial transformation on urban and rural life; the development of a rigidly-structured class society; the Great Famine in Ireland (and more broadly the important colonial relationship between Britain and Ireland in this period); and the challenge of new science – especially Darwin and his precursors - to Victorian cosmologies.  This term we will explore several historical problems in special depth through major readings and connected writing assignments.  We'll ask: How did the politics of gender shape the making of the British working class?  How did efforts to plan and build London into a 'modern' imperial metropolis take part in a larger transformation of society under capitalism, and what new social struggles ensued in the city?  How did empire shape identities and attitudes of Britons, and what ideological baggage did Britons carry with them when they moved to or traveled through the empire?


  • Seminar Participation 20%
  • Self-directed primary source analyses (x2). [You find a Victorian-era primary source and compose a CANVAS discussion post that analyzes your source in context and interprets it in light of arguments made in a course reading.] 15%
  • Three "Historical Problems" Essays. [A historical problem connected to course readings is posed for you in a prompt and you discuss it in a 5-6 page essay.] 40%
  • Historiographical essay. [Approx 8-10 pages. You define a historical problem in the Victorian period and write about how historians have approached it and what questions you still have.] 25%



James Vernon, Distant Strangers: How Britain Became Modern (University of California Press, 2014)

Anna Clark, The Struggle for the Breeches: Gender and the Making of the British Working Class (University of California Press, 1997)

Thomas Carlyle, Chartism (1840) [note: many online copies of this classic text available for free]

Lynda Nead, Victorian Babylon: People, Streets, and Images in Nineteenth-century London (Yale University Press, 2000)

Dane Kennedy, The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World (Harvard University Press, 2007)

Registrar Notes:

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