Becky Browning

History - BA (Hons)

Recently, I completed my third year of undergraduate History and am just waiting for the final results!

History has always been a love of mine both academically and personally, due to learning about how society came to be how it is.

A favourite era of mine to study is Britain in the nineteenth century - something that has been taught to me in lower school and all the way through into university, as well as reading about it in my own time. The fascination is that it is a time of conservatism and change, science versus religion and the great social questions. It can be seen as a time so long ago but argued that we still live in the Victorian times.

Literature is also a passion of mine, which works wonders with the Victorian era as it produced some of the best and known works, from Dracula to Black Beauty. I have long loved the story Alice In Wonderland, which was the kick starter for using literature as a source in my dissertation.

The study explores the concept of ‘Victorian Values’ in children’s literature, seeking to understand how they influenced children’s literature and the child reader. It has to be said that the latter is limited due to the nature of people not often telling or writing down the specific children orientated books they read as a child and what it meant to them. From this it shall be explored as to how these influences portray the Victorian idea of childhood. The time period covered is primarily focused on 1830 to 1910.

The primary sources utilised are works of literature with a heavy focus on traditional stories. In support, picture books and periodicals are used. The reason for using literature as the source of exploring historical children and childhood is because it can enlighten us about the politics, the values, the attributes and more of an era. Stories may have much fiction in them, but there is much factual evidence in them as well.

The key findings of the study show that the two main ways in which Victorian values influenced the literature was by creating specific characters, or stereotypical characters, as well as through the introduction of themes. The second part of the study was to answer the question of what childhood ideals are formed from looking at the values’ influence? It was gendered, but also had unity in the ideas of enjoyment, to avoid being sinful and learning. A connection in the ideals of childhood between all three types of values is some form of religious influence.