Victorian Britain

Narrated by: Patrick N. Allitt
Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.7 out of 5 stars (594 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This series of 36 fascinating lectures is a chronological journey into the story of Victorian Britain, from the unexpected ascension to the throne of teenaged Princess Victoria in 1837 to her death in 1901 as the Boer War neared its end.

Presented with all of Victoria's strengths and foibles left intact by an award-winning teacher and author, the lectures invite you to reflect on both the positive and negative aspects of her reign. You'll discover the lives of Victorian women; the situation facing working people and the rise of trade unionism; Victorian achievements in art, literature, architecture, and music; and what Leonard Woolf called "the seriousness of games," and of leisure-time activities as windows on Victorian life.

You'll discuss the important role played by Christianity as a force for both principled adherence to tradition and principled pursuit of change; and the influence of science and the debates over its impact that animated the Victorians.

And you'll learn what the Victorians believed about education; the questions raised by Britain's rule over its empire, the problems of poverty and crime; the discoveries of Victorian explorers in Africa; and much more in this remarkable rendering of a remarkable age.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2002 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2002 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Victorian Britain

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Very good introductory course

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I'd recommend this course to anyone who wants a broad overview of Victorian England. Prof. Allitt covers a LOT of topics, but none in very much depth. It's a great jumping off point to do further reading (listening). It's particularly useful that he quotes liberally from contemporary writers to give a sense of the culture. I wish a bibliography were included, though.

Who was your favorite character and why?

My favorite lectures were on Gladstone and Disraeli. Prof. Allitt draws nuanced distinctions between them and we can see both sides of contemporary politics. While he describes the eccentricities as well as the accomplishments of both men, the portrayals don't veer toward caricature. Actually none of the people whom Allitt describes do--he seems to like the men and women he talks about and is sympathetic rather than condescending to their foibles.

What about Professor Patrick N. Allitt’s performance did you like?

I loved his teaching style. He's clear, not too redundant, and has a wonderful sense of humor about the material. His accent is engaging. All around, a terrific teacher.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, but the topics fascinated me.

Any additional comments?

On a personal note, I appreciated Prof. Allitt's attention to Victorian religion. This is a topic that is often absent from historical overviews. He's thorough and even handed.

19 people found this helpful

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I could not stop listening

I don't know if it was an attraction to the subject matter but I enjoyed these lectures so much that I listened to each lecture twice. I found Professor Allitt to be charming and adding just the right context to each fact.

6 people found this helpful

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A Great Introductory Course on Victorian Britain

Examines well the course and consequence of the Victorian' s social, technological and political climate.

The lecturer does a great job of listing both positive and negative aspects of the culture and its actions within the context of its operation. He neither sweeps the less savory things under the rug nor apologizes for them but presents both sides of the era as they were. He also shows how those views lead into and shape modern policy of the country and those under the former empire. It's a great starting reference that can easily lead into further reading and its well-thought-out format facilitates that wonderfully.

It is, in the end, slightly biased towards England. but not distracting so and certain not smoothing over a lot of the unpleasant ideas of the age.

6 people found this helpful

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36 fascinating lectures - it's true!

Just a brilliant and informative set of lectures.
I've listened to it twice, just because it was so interesting.
Covers a lot of different things in Victorian society, each having a lecture of it's own.
I'd love to have a sequel covering Britain until today by the same lecturer.

6 people found this helpful

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Great Courses would be great even without its ads

What made the experience of listening to Victorian Britain the most enjoyable?

It is just utterly fantastic- a very comprehensive overview, lectured in a way that will hold your attention.

Have you listened to any of Professor Patrick N. Allitt’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

The scholar does a brilliant job. It is very different to have a matter taught by the original, rather than just having it read to you by a "narrator".

Any additional comments?

(Is that the place for the actual review?) Great Courses, why do you do such dishonour to the professors by riddling the audio with annoying music samples and completely superfluous information and advertisements, read in an arty- nasal voice? Someone who is listening to audio courses usually has limited time to his hands and can very well skip this.

9 people found this helpful

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Professor Allitt is the best of the best!

As a fellow historian, I greatly admire his knowledge and skill. I have greatly enjoyed every course he has done.

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We shouldn’t be too judgmental too quickly

That thought from Professor Allitt’s last lecture sums up the tenor of the previous thirty-five. Whether he’s dealing with Victorian literature, servants, poverty, industry, religion, music, politics, agriculture, reform, architecture, imperialism, leisure, or any of the myriad subjects covered in this course, he practices, “an imaginative engagement with people whose ideas were different from our own”. That means that, rather than sneering at the Victorians for, say, their peculiar snobberies, he urges us to, “remember that we’re all snobbish about certain things as well”. Rather than laugh at them, the good professor laughs with them, from zingers delivered in the Commons to cartoons printed in Punch. Even the Oxford Movement gets objective treatment. If we encounter views we abhor, Allitt suggests, “the discipline for us is to say, well, let’s see how they were thinking about it”. Unlike so much modern academic historiography, no axes are being ground here, no agendas served. Allitt himself is always a pleasure to listen to, from the cadence of his delivery to the smile that’s never very far from the surface.

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Death by Quotation

This is my third course by Professor Allitt. "History of the United States" did not draw me in but I thought "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire" was wonderfully done. So I suppose this course was going to be the tiebreaker/rubber match in some respects. Unfortunately, it did not deliver according to my expectations. I think the best way I can sum up my assessment is a comment from another reviewer: this course felt like one long collection of antcedotes. It seemed to be lacking in "teaching" and narrating political history. Instead it was like the professor just wanted to share a number of stories he had collected concerning first hand accounts of very specific individuals vs. providing general information on a topic or event. His summary comments of what these quotes were supposed to illustrate seemed forced or squeezed in at the last minute like they were secondary to what one specific person thought about something and had written. While I think some of the recitations certainly helped paint the picture of what life was like, the sheer number of them and the time dedicated to the quotations left me wondering if I had purchased a course on "Short Story Accounts of Victorian Britions". It felt like a majority of the lecture times were spent reading someone's quotes and the endless flow caused me to forget what topic was being discussed or what point the professor was trying to illustrate with the quote. I would've preferred more analysis/conclusions/teaching. Another shortcoming was the way the professor opened and closed lectures. He would start off each lecture by providing a preview of a major historical event or time period that he was going to discuss in more detail later in the lecture. But he wouldn’t frame it as such which resulted in me thinking that was the one and only time he’d describe something and I was left wondering why he didn’t provide more meat to the event and why he was moving to the next item so fast. If he would’ve explained it was a preview and he would get into further detail later in the lecture then some of the relation of the events wouldn’t feel so disjointed. This approach wouldn’t leave any real drama relating to the result of the event to hold your attention (such as which side would win a major battle) so it was like you had all the answers in a minute and all that was left was repeating it by providing details The professor often concluded his lectures in a somewhat abrupt manner: there wasn’t much summation of the key points of the lecture or a preview of what the next lecture had in store so there were times when the professor would make a point and suddenly there’d be applause to mark the end of the lecture without any warning that it was winding down! I understand 30 minutes is short and less time on summation means more can be squeezed in but how long does it take for one to mention "in summary..." or "in conclusion..."? 30 seconds? Small price to pay to avoid those abrupt endings/annoying applause at weird times. There were highlights: lectures 1-5, 12, 15-19, 29, 31, and 35. Specifically I thought his analysis on British attitudes towards the American Civil War was excellently done and well worth my time. My goal going in was to get a sense of the political history of this period, what everyday society was like, how the nation was transforming, and what factors actually constitute "Victorian Britain" (i.e. what makes it different from other periods). While I think most of those goals were met (a little less on the last one), the way we got here was not what I'd expected at all. But every professor has their own style and this one may resonate with you. For my money though if you are looking for information on this time period I would recommend Professor Allitt's other course: "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire" and "Foundations of Western Civilization II - A History of the Modern Western World" by Professor Robert Bucholz.

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Great Professor, Interesting Lectures

In case you couldn't tell by the title, this is a very specialized subject. This course basically covers Britain in the 1800s, which Queen Victoria ruled for most of the century. The professor does a good job of blending chronological history with topical history. What I mean by this is that the professor provides a good chronology and teaches the course generally in chronological order. However, he has special lectures from time-to-time on topical issues, such as the life of upper class women, lower class women, and servants. If I have one complaint, and it is a minor one, it is that I listened to this course shortly after listening to the professor's course on The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. There is consequently some overlap between the courses, so I wish I had spaced them out a little more than I did. However, the professor does a good job of minimizing the overlap and providing different perspectives.

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Definitely recommended

Even though I was familiar with much of the material, I feel I learned a bit from listening to this course; moreover, the author has a very good delivery style.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Nils
  • 07-24-15

So far the best lecturer, decent content

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely. Anyone interested in the period will find a broad and sometimes deep tour over the victorian times.

What other book might you compare Victorian Britain to, and why?

It is much much detailed and broader in perspective than Life In Victorian Britain by Patterson but much less contrarian and iconoclastic than A.N Wilson's "The Victorians". However, a more conventional take on this period is a good start.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The frank description of poverty and classicism.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The above.

Any additional comments?

The lecturer is (so far) the most enjoyable of the entire Great Courses library. Nice delivery, clear voice, pleasent accent.

9 people found this helpful

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  • ColonelJames
  • 11-29-16

Less depressing than you might expect!

If you could sum up Victorian Britain in three words, what would they be?

Entertaining. Enlightening. Satisfying.

What other book might you compare Victorian Britain to, and why?

Recently I have listened to 'Understanding Japan' and 'European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century'. The former moved lightly over lots of different topics and the latter was more methodical and academic. This is somewhere in between the two in its style but probably a little better than either because of the charming, sometimes very funny, delivery of Professor Allitt.

Which character – as performed by Professor Patrick N. Allitt – was your favourite?

Himself. He was very likeable.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Certainly not.

Any additional comments?

I was doubtful about this one when I started listening, probably because the title, like Victoria's picture, suggests a sort of grim austerity and lifelessness. But this could not be further from the truth. This one is recommended.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs. K. Sowden
  • 11-11-16

Wonderful

I really enjoyed this series and didn't want it to end. Professor Allitt has a lovely style that makes the subject very accessible. I thoroughly recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jason
  • 08-02-16

excellent

these lectures were incredibly entertaining and interesting. I guarantee you will not be bored of these lectures.

1 person found this helpful

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  • cwmbear
  • 06-11-16

Enthralling.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. When it finished I wanted more.
Victorian Britain was beautifully brought to life. So many interesting anecdotes and facts.
ONLY criticism: MCC = METROPOLITAN Cricket Club?? in lecture 33.

1 person found this helpful

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  • A. Curtis
  • 09-25-20

Fantastic History

A very enjoyable book about this important era of Britain and the world. Wonderful characters and detail but the book speeds along. It's one for anyone interested in the Victorian era.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-22-20

Excellent as everything Professor Allitt does!

Excellent as everything Professor Allitt does! 100% worth it. This is my 5th course taught by him and onto the next!

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  • Lee
  • 09-07-19

Really enjoying this!

My first foray into the Great Courses and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’m finding the bite size lectures easy to listen to and because the chapters are all headed I’m able to pick and choose my lectures. The lecturer is fun and is able to convey the lecture material without it becoming too dry. I’m learning heeps about the Victorians which I had been woefully ignorant of before hand. So highly recommend.

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  • Jessica Bartos
  • 05-11-19

Amazing

Completely in love with this course! What an amazing historian Allitt is. I wish there were more courses on British history by him on Audible

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  • Mr S A J Brown
  • 04-17-19

Excellent!

A magnificent lecture series. Become totally immersed in a fascinating and transformative period of British history....

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  • Alexandra
  • 12-20-17

Very enjoyable course

What made the experience of listening to Victorian Britain the most enjoyable?

I loved the narrator, he has a nice English accent. I enjoyed when he imitated Queen Victoria's voice, that's hilarious :D

What did you like best about this story?

The whole course was extremely interesting. Lots of interesting facts and stories. I just loved it.

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  • Jade
  • 05-31-17

Fantastic

A really fantastic lecture series, interesting and very well spoken. It has been a pleasure to listen to. This has whetted my appetite for reading Victorian novelists.

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  • Miss Amy V
  • 03-12-17

Another Great Course!

I loved this as much as the ancient lives course. Fantastic lecturer who obviously loved this topic. It was a very varied look at Victorian Britain from the Queen herself to the leisure pursuits of the poorest people. Highly recommend this audiobook.

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  • Jen
  • 11-30-16

Excellent~

If you could sum up Victorian Britain in three words, what would they be?

A well prepared set of lectures covering so many aspects of Victorian Britain.

What did you like best about this story?

Excellent delivery and content.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No - it's a million hours long! But if I had all the time in the world then maybe.

Any additional comments?

Can't wait to get my next Great Courses download from Audible.

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  • Miss
  • 10-13-16

Enjoyable and engaging

Professor Allitt clearly has a passion for Victorian history and through all 36 lectures he conveys a real sense of life in this era as well as artfully drawing portraits of some of the luminous figures of the time.

I've been listening to this series on my daily commute for awhile now and will miss it!