Victorian Narratives of the Recent Past

Memory, History, Fiction

  • Helen Kingstone

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. A Conceptual Framework

  3. Victorian Historians and the Recent Past: Harriet Martineau, J. R. Green, Spencer Walpole, and Charlotte M. Yonge

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 85-85
    2. Helen Kingstone
      Pages 115-138
  4. Victorian Novelists and the Recent Past: Walter Scott, Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 139-139
  5. Helen Kingstone
    Pages 205-215
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 219-246

About this book


This book explains why narrating the recent past is always challenging, and shows how it was particularly fraught in the nineteenth century. The legacy of Romantic historicism, the professionalization of the historical discipline, and even the growth of social history, all heightened the stakes. This book brings together Victorian histories and novels to show how these parallel genres responded to the challenges of contemporary history writing in divergent ways. Many historians shrank from engaging with controversial recent events. This study showcases the work of those rare historians who defied convention, including the polymath Harriet Martineau, English nationalist J. R. Green, and liberal enthusiast Spencer Walpole. A striking number of popular Victorian novels are retrospective. This book argues that Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot’s “novels of the recent past” are long overdue recognition as genuinely historical novels. By focusing on provincial communities, these novelists reveal undercurrents invisible to national narratives, and intervene in debates about women’s contribution to history.


History Historiography Eliot Dickens Walpole Martineau

Authors and affiliations

  • Helen Kingstone
    • 1
  1. 1.Leeds Centre for Victorian StudiesLeeds Trinity UniversityLeedsUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic information