Review of How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. How to be a Victorian is a non-fiction book about social history in the Victorian era. The book is based on Goodmans extensive research into the era as well as her own experiences embodying the era in reenactment.
My review of How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
How to Be a Victorian is one of the most engaging history books I have read in years. I read it at the same speed I would read a novel, picking it up whenever I could.
The mix of hands on experience and historical research peppered with first hand accounts was perfect. I recommend it to anyone interested in social history or the victorian era or steampunk.
My review from 2015 of How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
Spring has been a bit hectic and I have not had a lot of excess energy to write reviews. I have been reading a stack of book but I it has been kind of quiet here. I was in London in Marts with my sister and we had a great trip. On our way home we went through Gatwick airport and went into the airport bookstore. I couldn’t find any fiction I wanted to read, but I did pick up How to Be a Victorian.
The very short review is: I love it – it is so engaging!
I really like everyday history – what I want from history is often to know how things were, how people lived, what they wore, what they ate, how they worked etc. How to Be a Victorian has all of that. It also has great anecdotes woven in. Goodman has interwoven primary sources to a lot of the material in the book but it never get boring or tedious.
How to Be a Victorian is organized so it follow a victorian throughout the day from they get up and put their feet on the cold cold floor to sex after lights out in the evening with everything in between. One of the remarkable things this book does is follow both people of noble birth, the shopkeeper and working class people as well as farmers and children. It follows both men and women’s daily life. It’s pretty amazing.
To me this read with the same ease as a novel and is this is one of the most engaging history books I have read in years. I kept picking it up whenever I could and brought it with me everywhere. The mix of hands on experience and historical research peppered with first hand accounts was perfect. I recommend it to anyone wanting to know more of the period.
Ruth Goodman has done a lot of hands on reenactment in multiple settings – among other things she was one of the people living on the Victorian Farm in the BBC series. So she has tried a lot of the things that she talks about. Among other things she has worn a lot of the clothing and can tell you how it actually is to weed the garden wearing skirts and a corset. The book dispelled some of the myths that I had of the era and about the 1700s. The hands on experience is really what makes this special. This book has resulted in me picking up a number of other history books – which is something I have not really read since I finished university. At least not something I have read for fun.
I recommend How to Be a Victorian for anyone interested in social history or the victorian era or steampunk.
If you are interested in more history books or reenactment, check out my history site: Postej & Stew
The stats: How to Be a Victorian
Published: 2013 by Viking
Length: 458 pages
Read: March 22 to 30, 2015
Author: Female, white, United Kingdom
This review was originally posted: May 8, 2015. Updated and edited June 30, 2023