The Victorian Underworld by Donald Serrell Thomas

The Victorian Underworld

Donald Thomas shows us, through the eyes of its inhabitants, the teeming underbelly of a world more often associated with gentility and high culture. Defined by night houses and cigar divans, populated by street people like the running-patterer with his news of murder, and entertainers like the Fire King, the underworld was an insular yet diffuse community, united by its deep hatred of the police. In its gin shops and taverns, hard by the fashion...

Details The Victorian Underworld

TitleThe Victorian Underworld
Release DateSep 1st, 1998
PublisherNew York University Press
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Historical, Victorian, Crime, True Crime, Mystery, Literature, 19th Century

Reviews The Victorian Underworld

  • Catherine
    Interesting history of various types of activities deemed criminal in Victorian-era London. The author delves into everything from murder and counterfitting to theft and prostitution. He also touches on the criminalization of homosexuality and crimes committed against and by immigrants. Sidebar: I only recently learned that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle worked to get some justice for George Edalji, an Anglo-Indian accountant who was falsely accused of a...
  • Tom Williams
    This is a brilliant introduction to crime in Victorian England. It does draw rather heavily on Mayhew's 'London Labour and the London Poor', but, given that I hardly ever open my copy of the original, anything that summarises key points is appreciated.The book starts by laying out the geography of the London underworld, a world of 'rookeries' and 'penny gaffs'. We meet the costers and are introduced to their interminable war with the police movin...
  • Cat
    Completed the first non-fiction book for my research! While written very dryly and in absolutely minute font size, there were some surprisingly funny parts (especially the quotes from actual Victorians). Overall I found it interesting and helpful in terms of learning about both crime and the lower classes in the Victorian era.Prologue: Darkest England• This introduction doesn’t need to be as long as it is, most of the information is somewhere...
  • Dfordoom
    This one takes a completely different approach from Kellow Chesney’s marvellous book of the same title. While Chesney focused very much on the grinding poverty and human suffering that formed the background to so much Victorian crime Thomas’s approach is more journalistic and much lighter. Which is not to say it isn’t a fascinating book. It is. In fact the two books complement each other rather well. While Chesney concentrates to a large ex...
  • BlurryBug
    This book combines two of my interest Victorian social history and true crime. Which also meant that I kept stopping to deep dive on certain cases. However, the book does give you a good overview over certain criminal aspect of the Victoria era up to the first world. The language was easily understandable and I don't you need to have much foreknowledge about the Victorian era to enjoy it, their are some famous names might be lost on the reader if...
  • Kristina
    It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but still it was a very informative read. Some parts were too long in my opinion, but the author gave a pretty vivid picture of what was London like during Victorian era. If all you know about that time period deals with politics and the life of aristocrats this book will be useful in making you look at the other side of the country/history/social ladder.3,75 stars
  • Stephen Simpson
    This was largely just a gloss of Mayhew's works (and a few other contemporary sources), and not one that much value beyond it. If you want to read a sort-of "Cliff Notes" version of the original sources (with some artwork and some expanded explanations, stories, and examples in a few places), maybe this will be of use. Still, I'd recommend going straight to the original sources this book cites so frequently.
  • Edd Alexander
    For such an interesting subject, this book really does not add up to the sum of its parts. It really just seems to regurgitate material from other sources therfore I think it is better to consult the materials directly or go to more analytical works for interpretations.
  • Gordon Howard
    Good overview of London, and England's seamy 19th century underbelly. Broad-ranging, sometimes shallow, and a bit unfocused.
  • Brandi Thompson
    This book starts out very slow, and it's dry overall.. but it has some very interesting insights on the Victorian era and humanity in general. Once I was really into it, I found it enjoyable.
  • Kingsgrave
    This might actually be the very best writer's resource for the Victorian period in England I have ever encountered. Western literature is stuffed full of depictions of the glamorous upper class, but the depictions of the middle and lower classes are reliably shallow, and often quite poorly thought out. This book, based on the social work of Mr. Mayhew, who went amoung the poor and the criminal classes and recorded, in their own words, their answe...
  • Ralph
    This is an excellent, well-researched and very approachable study of not just the "underworld" (that semi-mythical realm to which we consign the criminally inclined), but the entire underbelly of the Victorian world. There are plenty of crimes and capers recounted, told by both old lags and manhunters, but also scams, follies and numerous forays into the erotic life of London, from the lowest doxies on up to the toffs who played dress-up and the ...
  • Rena Sherwood
    I've only read about 10 Donald Thomas books (both fiction and non), but this is by far the best. It's a highly readable history of the Dark Side in Victorian England (especially London.) I not only highly recommend this for a good read in and of itself, but for anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes, or a good Victorian murder mystery (and even those who read bad Victorian murder mysteries.) I finally found out what a "rookery" was. The book is so goo...
  • Betsy
    This was a fairly well-rounded look at the underworld, though it may have spent a little too much time examining prostitution. I was particularly interested to hear about the prison systems at the time (or lack therof). Some of the prison break stories were fairly entertaining.Unfortunately, though, I thought this book read too much like a book report for the works of Henry Mayhew, a Victorian contemporary. The author could not contain his enthus...
  • Skut L
    I enjoyed this,though the author did dwell on the sexual mores and related underworld element more than I felt necessary. I would have liked more information on the practices of those who were accused of murder and other such crimes but not much was given. The latter part of the book was my favorite, as it dealt with the PIC of Victorian England. As the PIC of today, it existed to lock up the poor and destitute, but as one would expect it makes t...
  • Melissa
    This book was an interesting look at the darker side of Victorian England. But as one other reviewer noted it did feel a bit like a book report. The first three chapters were basically the auther recapping other books and heavily quoting from those books. It does make me want to search out and read the books used and I might never have heard of them if not for this book. Overall a good overview of an interesting and colorful subject.
  • Taysha
    Too much emphasis on prostitution and other sexual crimes as well as summarizing other authors' works rather than actually interesting analysis of criminal practices and origins, but still a fairly thorough exploration of Victorian era crime and the criminal justice system.
  • Wendy
    An interesting read, well written and engaging look at the behind the scenes look at life in Victorian England away from the pomp and circumstances of the elite lives in which I was more familiar with.
  • Sarah
    A fascinating look into the poor and criminal world of the Victorian age. A little dense at times, but very interesting.
  • Mia
    Wasn't my cup of tea. Pun intended. :)
  • Anne
    This had the potential to be fascinating, but as so many others have mentioned it reads like a very dry book report. What could have been a historical page-turner becomes a slog.
  • Maha
    Intriguing read - enchanting for a non-fiction piece of work. Interesting focus and thematic choices.