Childhood and Death in Victorian England
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Media: BOOK - paperback, 224 pages
Author: S. Seaton
Other: b&w photos, sketches, index
Publisher: Pen & Sword
In this fascinating book, the reader is taken on a journey of real life accounts of Victorian children, how they lived, worked, played and ultimately died. Many of these stories have remained hidden for over 100 years. They are now unearthed to reveal the hardship and cruel conditions experienced by many youngsters, such as a travelling fair child, an apprentice at sea and a trapper.
The lives of the children of prostitutes, servant girls, debutantes and married women all intermingle, unified by one common factor – death. Drawing on actual instances of Infanticide and baby farming the reader is taken into a world of unmarried mothers, whose shame at being pregnant drove them to carry out horrendous crimes yet walk free from court, without consequence. For others, they were not so lucky.
The Victorian children in this publication lived in the rapidly changing world of the Industrial Revolution. With the introduction of the New Poor Law in 1834 the future for some pauper children changed – but not for the better. Studies have also unearthed a religious sect known as the ‘Peculiar People’ and gives an insight into their beliefs.
This book is not recommended for those easily offended as it does contain graphic descriptions of some child murders, although not intended to glorify the tragedies, they were necessary to inform the reader of the horrific extent that some killers went to. This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the social history of the Victorian period.
1. Industrial Mishaps and Misdemeanours
3. Poverty, Paupers and Health
4. Manslaughter, Murder and Circumstantial Evidence
5. Newborn and Early Infant Deaths
It is by no means an academic work but Sarah has done a lot of research. I expected an in depth study of the life and death of Victorian children but the scope was limited to more sensational deaths and generalised proletariat life. She seems to have quoted many newspaper reports and court records verbatim. Some stories drag on and I found I lost track of her discussion. The work is not what I expected from a person with a masters degree in history.