Cover image for Railways and the Victorian imagination
Railways and the Victorian imagination
Freeman, Michael J., 1950-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
vii, 264 pages : illustrations (some color), maps (some color), music ; 28 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HE1041 .F74 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



The cultural dimension of the railway age is often overshadowed by its mechanical and physical elements. Here its centrality in the literary, artistic and imaginative life of the nation is set side by side with its financial, speculative and economic aspects to provide an original insight into the realities of Victorian life.

Author Notes

Michael Freeman is Supernumerary Fellow and Lecturer in Human Geography at Mansfield College, Oxford.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In this illustrated history, Freeman (Oxford Univ.) traces the cultural and social effect that railways had on 19th-century British society. By the 1860s, railways were physically, economically, and culturally pervasive--railroad tracks crisscrossed the country, and railway construction organized and harnessed vast sums of capital and tens of thousands of laborers. By the end of the 19th century, railways employed nearly five percent of the working population. Meanwhile, artists and photographers--as well as children's toy and book manufacturers--became enamored of the new images created by the railways. Profusely illustrated with photos, maps, and paintings, this book is a visual treat. The text stands on its own as a well-documented work of scholarship. Recommended for academic libraries collecting railroad or British history.--Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Freeman presents the 19th-century history of English railroads from several perspectives. In the process, he produces an engaging work similar to John Stilgoe's study Metropolitan Corridor (CH, Jan'84), which treats the US at a slightly later time period. The railroad was born in England, a child of its industrial revolution. Freeman details how this lusty infant grew to consume the attention of the country during the century, charting its impact on the land, social traditions, finance, the laboring classes, art, and much more. Well illustrated with contemporary photographs and other illustrations, Railways and the Victorian Imagination both informs and entertains and will have a wide readership. The author's fine text, written from his perspective as human geographer, makes this far more than simply an attractive book on trains. All levels. R. B. Clay; formerly, University of Kentucky

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgementsp. vi
Prologuep. 1
Introductionp. 9
The devil's mantlep. 9
The railway as a cultural metaphorp. 18
1 Death of the Old Order?p. 27
Railways and reformp. 27
The decay of the bonds between community and territoryp. 35
The death of naturep. 38
2 The 'March of Intellect'p. 57
The age of science and statisticsp. 57
Railways and geographyp. 78
Railways and the world of everyday livingp. 82
3 Capitalp. 91
Steam railway capitalismp. 91
The wider culture of capitalp. 99
Centralization and combination of capitalp. 105
Class and class consciousnessp. 109
The emancipation of the third classp. 117
4 Urbanizationp. 121
Creative destructionp. 122
Suburbiap. 133
Circulationp. 140
5 Territoryp. 149
The compartmentalization of spacep. 149
Configurations of territoryp. 153
Territorial 'clearing'p. 162
Commodity flows and territoryp. 164
Preferential ratesp. 166
Light railwaysp. 171
6 Labourp. 173
The railway navviesp. 173
Railway servicep. 180
7 Education and Social Reproductionp. 195
'Educating Willy'p. 196
Board games and jig-saw puzzlesp. 203
Sheet musicp. 207
Toy trainsp. 212
8 Representations in Artp. 215
Pictorial production and consumptionp. 215
Pictorial formatp. 221
Pictorial subjectp. 228
Epiloguep. 241
The Victorian railway as 'all the world'p. 241
The Victorian railway as exhibitionp. 242
Notesp. 246
Picture Creditsp. 259
Indexp. 260