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Childhood and Death in Victorian England (ePub)

P&S History > British History > Victorian History P&S History > Social History

By Sarah Seaton
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 6.1 MB (.epub)
Pages: 206
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781473877047
Published: 19th June 2017


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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.

Well researched and an interesting look into life in Victorian Britain.

I enjoyed reading this, it is a must for those interested in the time period.

NetGalley, Claire Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow this book was a really eye opener! Highly recommend for history buffs out there.

NetGalley, Heather Michael

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A thoroughly researched record of life in Victorian England and the difficulties faced by children of the time. This is exceptionally hard to read at times, full of tragedy. I’d recommend reading in short bursts to avoid becoming overwhelmed. It would be a useful resource for writers setting a story in Victorian England.

NetGalley, Susan Anderson

This book was really interesting and had moments of being truly fascinating! I am interested in studying further into the idea of childhood mortality in literature and thought this was a great starting point to access some of those ideas!

NetGalley, Ruth Parker

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book may sound macabre and grim, but it's really very informative and a good read. I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Alayna Romo

This is not a fun read as the topic is as grim as the title suggests. Victorian England was a very dangerous place to live, especially if you were young and poor. Surviving infancy and childhood was basically a matter of pure luck. The author addresses a dark subject but one that definitely needs to be addressed.

NetGalley, Rania Ioannou

If you don’t mind the subject matter, and are prepared to be bewildered and enraged in a true test of cultural relativism, this is a solid book. As I stated before, it is well-researched and has an incredible amount of information on the subject. Whenever I feel like life is hard, I will try to ground myself thinking of how bad it was at literally any time in the past, and especially in Victorian England.

NetGalley, Stephen Kelley

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this hard to read yet fascinating book, you can find tales that have been hidden, tales about the life of Victorian children, how they lived and died. This book uncover the hardship experienced by children as apprentices at sea. (Which interested me as although not a Victorian my grandfather had to go in as a cabin bot at 12 years old in 1928) It also covers the cruelty and hardship that children suffered as prostitutes, servants and trappers. This is hard to read not only for natural mortality of children in the Victorian age (due to lack of medicine, general health and conditions at the time) but also the cruel murder of children, often as throwaway a life, the accidents, and deaths of infants too. An interesting and heartbreaking read, but worth the heartache.

NetGalley, Tara Keating

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Interesting but harrowing read about what childhood was like for the Victorian children. If you're into this period & love social history, this is the book for you.

NetGalley, S. Constant Reader

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An excellent book that I highly recommend. A great resource for the historian. This book discusses how horrible life was for children in Victorian England.

NetGalley, April Rogers

It’s so obvious how much research went into this book, even from the first page you can just tell how much time the author spent making sure that they got everything right and that they got as much detail as possible. This was just a really well written book and I hope to read more from the author in the future.

NetGalley, Deanna Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The history of this book was very interesting because you really don't think about how many child passed in Victorian England. I did learn a lot and I will be telling all my history loving family and friends to pick up this book. I had me hooked from page one and I couldn't put it down. The writing style was very easy to read and it didn't read like a history book which I loved. I will be reading more from Sarah Seaton.

NetGalley, Elizabeth Neill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sarah Seaton's book Childhood and Death in Victorian England is not an easy read at all, nor is it for everyone, but the knowledge and insights gained are utterly powerful. As a teacher, it is painful to read about children suffering when they are the age of the students in my classroom. Learning about the laws, society, and culture of Victorian England has always fascinated me, and this book provided a stark difference to the novels written during that time period because these topics are often not written about or taught.

NetGalley, Lauren Taylor

I think it was one of the hardest books to read for me this year. The book illustrates the deaths and childhood of the children in Victorian England with such a clear story that you cannot stop yourself from picturing it in your head. It’s terrifying how far people went with bad treatment of their apprentices, but also kids or neighbors. This book brought so many tears, I cannot count how many times I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I think the main factor why it had such a big impact on me is that the stories of the kids were precisely explained, one by one. I think not many people know what was happening at this time to children. There is this basic knowledge that it was a bad time for women and kids, however, we don’t know the specifics. This book gives specifics that I don’t think anyone is ready to hear. However, I think it is eye-opening to see what was actually happening in the past, and how lucky we are now.

NetGalley, Karolina Myczkowska

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Seaton's book won't be for everyone. She has meticulously delved into the tragic short lives of MANY children in Victorian England. You think that nothing could be worse than the chapter you are reading...then you turn the page. It is amazing that enough children survived to continue populating the country.

NetGalley, Michele Lawrence

I really enjoyed this! It sounds morbid to say I enjoyed a book about dead children, but as a death historian, I study stuff like this and am always fascinated to find new books that center a macabre topic and treat it as something natural the way this one does. Sarah Seaton does a great job of respectfully telling these children's stories while also keeping it interesting and genuine. I can only imagine what her research process was like and how she made the choices to tell the stories she was going to. Also, I enjoyed that this was about Victorian England. I'm American and tend to mainly focus on American history as well as American relationships with death, so I enjoyed seeing just how closely intertwined a lot of these death histories are. Great read and one to go on my death positivity shelf!

NetGalley, Marisa Balatico

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love reading about the Victorian era and what our ancestors had to endure so this was right up my street. It isn't for the faint hearted and it will leave you angry, in disbelief and astonished at the decisions made. Quite a bit of local (to me) history that I never knew. Very interesting read.

NetGalley, Catherine Clarkson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Over the past year or so with everything that has gone on in my life, I have found a new love of non-fiction books, particularly history books that are about subjects that are not super common to think about. This is one of those books that I saw and I thought about how I have never read something like this before.

This is a very factual book and in being that it can be very surface-level on the specifics of the stories that it was telling. The lack of information and records from the time period contributes to that as well. There are some parts of the book that be a bit hard to read as the subject is a very dark one and the things discussed can be gruesome, but it is also informative. The author does an excellent job of being blunt and factual with her writing while also infusing it with understanding and not harshness.

If you want to read an interesting book that has a lot of history in it and is about a topic that is not often talked about, then this is a book you should look at.

NetGalley, Mariah Kallevig

What a fascinating subject and I was interested from the start. Something that isn’t spoke about much nor taught and I definitely had my eyes opened to the more macabre nature of Victorian era

NetGalley, Charlie Read

A difficult subject well handled by another pen and sword author. It didn’t shy away from the terrible truth nor did it feel like it was trying to shock as entertainment. For the Victorian the death of a child was almost a certainty no matter what you social class. My own great great grandmother had 17 live births, only nine children grew to adulthood. Only two were boys and both died in World War One. How as mother she coped with the grief?

NetGalley, Cath P

This book is dark and occasionally graphic in a very educational way. The Victorian era is frequently associated with large skirts and good manners, but the era was so much different than that. Conditions were generally poor, and children were frequently the victims of this era's less than lovely aspects. I appreciate that this book is not at all dry and consistently works in primary sources and photos. The descriptions are effective without pushing for shock value, and the stories help to reveal the actual conditions of life, and often death, for children living in the Victorian era.

NetGalley, Jessica Fick

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Another wonderfully interesting and informative book from Pen And Sword Publishers.
Sarah Seaton isn’t an author I have read before but , although you can’t really enjoy a book with such a dark subject as this. I found it very useful. I also enjoyed her style of writing
Heart breaking to think how many lives could have been saved or improved had a child been born in more recent times..
I will find this really useful when compiling my family tree to give me an insight into the lives of my ancestors.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys history.

NetGalley, Alison Bevington

I absolutely love historic stories like this. The topic of death from this time span is so interesting.
The author did an amazing job writing this and keeping it interesting and easy to follow.
I was honestly impressed with this book and would gladly read others by this author.

NetGalley, Kade Gulluscio

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Not for the squeamish, this book is a detailed and well researched account of life and death for children in Victorian England. A fascinating narrative covering a range of circumstances, the author respectfully and objectively reports the facts and gives the dead their names. Non-judgemental, she highlights the context of the tragic circumstances, noting the ignorance in relation to medical practices and the lack of support for new mothers. This is really interesting and I recommend it highly for people interested in social history.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a writer and someone with an interest in researching my family tree, this book has a wealth of information that is relevant. I enjoy history but often find books expect a background in the topic. This doesn't making it easy to access and readable. It delves into the history of childhood and how things changed in the Victorian era which impacts our kids today and the different types of deaths there were. It is fascinating and one I know I will keep coming back too.

NetGalley, Kate Kenzie

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a very disturbing read, but one I couldn’t put down. I was shocked at how little children’s lives were valued and how rampant death was. The author did a great job of presenting upsetting information in an informational manner.

NetGalley, Cristie Underwood

Victorian England was no place to be if you were a poor child, that's for sure. If the child labour didn't kill you, then the diseases of the time (no vaccines), questionable medical practices and sheer neglect would do it. I was absolutely appalled at some of the cases in this book, it has to be said, and the fact that so many of the killers of these children just walked away! I am very happy that the law is much stronger now and that people are held more accountable. I am also so happy that there are safety nets for people who are doing it tough - the poor, the single mothers. So many things that we take for granted now: vaccines, clean drinking water, no need for children to work, money if you are not working, a robust health system etc.

Wow, this book was confronting. Surprising in parts, mostly that children were so YOUNG when they were in the workforce, when they should have been at home playing with their toys. Some of the cases of children being killed really hurt my heart though, there were some truly uncaring people in this book. However, there are plenty more in the 21st century as well, some of whom are called to account but not all.....

An amazing bit of research from the author and a sobering read.

4.5 stars from me.

NetGalley, Monica Mac

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There were lots of ways for children to die in Victorian England. Accidents, murder, sickness, work, poorhouse, workhouse, infirmary, mining, factories, and lots of other ways. It appears that no one cared much at all for children under age 18 in that time period. Children probably were a "dime a dozen" since everyone had multiple children and there were always 5 more children to step up to take the place of a dead child. There was always an inquest held at a local place of lodging, but the deaths were frequently filed as accidental deaths. It is good that there are more regulations regarding child labor, poorhouses, and workhouses in this century.

NetGalley, Tina Cay

What a heartbreaking and at times challenging book to read but it was also fascinating. Has a history of lover this book was very captivating.

NetGalley, Blind Bat Books Bakunzi

I love history, particularly history from this period. It may be shocking to many people, but a lot of people approached childhood mortality with apathy, but childhood death was very commonplace. I really liked how the author presented the facts in a clear, concise manner but also managed to make it a very intriguing read.

NetGalley, Lauren Besignano

The author is an amazing writer, and the resources such as graphs, tables, letters, and newspaper articles spread throughout the book was really interesting. Hearing about these things posthumously is one thing, but looking at the deaths as they were recorded in the 1800s? Bone chilling.

NetGalley, Aiya Messina

A good, factual account of what life was like for children in the Victorian era. Interesting and well
researched true accounts which are harrowing to read about this in day and age... it’s quite hard to believe this was normal life for our ancestors!

NetGalley, Bonnie Benton

I couldn't put the book down and finished it one day. It was so through and obviously well researched. There were also articles and pictures that accompanied it throughout. The author does a compelling job of sharing the stories of these children and at the end comparing to our situation today.

As you read through the book you may find yourself thinking how could parents allow that - but you have to remember the times and if you don't - Sarah does a very good job of explanation. Well done!

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Not only do readers get a glimpse into childhood death but we also see how children were treated by adults. The book is clearly well-researched and has the feel of an accessible academic text. I quite enjoyed it.

NetGalley, Sharon Pajka

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Such a tough topic and book to read and yet illuminating and informative. The Victorian era is my favourite to learn about and this is eye opening. The author's focus is on the years 1800-1901 England. She discusses the reasons children died at such a high rates in fires, drownings, workplace injuries, scaldings, accidental opium ingestion, suffocation and neglect. Though attitudes then were different, people are people and where they are, there are problems and always will be.

Do know that about halfway through the book there is a warning about the following section as it describes deliberate death by others' hands including the most infamous barbaric baby farmer who is said to have killed 400 precious babies. I had no idea that the first case of child cruelty was prosecuted under the animal act before there was one for children! Dead children were often taken into the courtroom for people to see. The author describes ragged schools, fostering, mining, chimney sweeping, the fate of illegitimate babies and working on ships where making one tiny mistake could cost a life through beatings and other forms of torture. In Wales I once went on a mining tour and was reminded of that while reading about the horrors of the workplace environment where children as young as FOUR worked and the average age was ten, no breaks for meals (had to eat while working), abused and exhausted, sometimes alone for hours on end with only a candle for company. Children were poisoned by green wallpaper (arsenic) and caught clothes on fire from being too close without fireguards. Life was hazardous for children.

This book is not for everyone but is extremely important and fascinating from a social perspective. Thankfully many of our laws have improved things to a point but our children still suffer from poverty, hunger and neglect. Some things never change.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

This fascinating, if grim, book researches the ways that children died [and thus by implication lived] in the period 1800 -1901. Its primary source is the reporting of publicly held inquests and court proceedings in newspapers.

Deaths from accidents in the home and at work can be attributed to a lack of any regard for the safety of children, or of the working poor in general. Unregulated child labour, insanitary and unsafe housing and a lack of adult supervision left children vulnerable. Legislation and compulsory education reduced mortality; a reminder of the necessity of legal protections for working people and their families.

Further reasons for childhood deaths relate to morally motivated legislation and the economic value of children: The ‘Bastardy’ clause of the 1834 Poor Law act placed all responsibility for illegitimate children with the mother. This coupled with the stigma, likely loss of job and home, meant that concealment and infanticide were rational and expedient remedies. Despite many philanthropic movements, it also led to a lucrative business in farming and adoption though which many children died of neglect and starvation.

Finally, there murders of children, usually by close family members. These are different in that although much has changed in the lives of children since Victorian times, these deaths resonate with current times, and seem ageless.

North West Labour History Society

This is an excellent history of childhood deaths, and there is still plenty to be learnt, and this is only the beginning of that education. This book has been well researched, well written and an engrossing read, and you will learn something on every page.

Reviewed by Paul Digget

This is a well-researched book that would be of interest to people researching the social history of the Victorian period, particularly as it pertains to the treatment of children, to writers looking for background on the period, but it is not a light read or a standard history book of the era. It goes to show that truth can, and it often is, more terrifying than fiction.

Read the full review here.

Olga Nunez Miret

As featured in 'books in brief'

Family Tree, November 2017

As featured on Lil's Vintage World Youtube Blog!

Lil's Vintage World

The scandalous way in which poorer people's lives impacted on their children and their brief, unhappy lives is brought into stark reality in this amazing social history by Sarah Seaton.

Books Monthly

An interesting and easy read.

WDYTYA? Magazine, September 2017 – reviewed by Celia Heritage

Beyond its morbidlurid cover, Seaton unloads information about fatal child labor industrial injuries (involving children as young as 4, yet an average of 9-10 year-olds), accidents, death while in poverty, murder homicides (sometimes involving kidnapping), and death in infancy between 1800 and 1901.

Read the complete review here.

GoodReads, Kristine Fisher

In this fascinating if gruesome book, author Sarah Seaton takes the reader on a journey of real life accounts of Victorian children, how they lived, worked, played and how ultimately they 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. 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 always for the better.
This book is not for those easily offended as it does contain graphic descriptions, but it will appeal to anyone with an interest in the social history of the Victorian period.

Bradway Bugle, Autumn 2017

About Sarah Seaton

Sarah Seaton has a Masters degree in Local and Regional History from the University of Nottingham. She taught the subject for Derbyshire County Council, The University of Nottingham and the WEA. Sarah is the author of The Derby Book of Days, The History of Greasley Parish Church, Nottinghamshire and War Time Memories of the Amber Valley* (*for Derbyshire County Council); she has regularly written articles in the Nottingham Post and is editor for the Nottinghamshire Local History Association’s The Nottinghamshire Historian magazine.

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