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MA London Studies

Living in Victorian London: material histories of everyday domestic life in the nineteenth-century metropolis

Introduction: our project and agenda
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Speculative Research Grants Scheme [Award Number: AH/E002285/1], this pilot project is seeking to develop a new approach to studying everyday domestic life in nineteenth-century London by examining three similarly dated archaeological sites from the metropolis, located in the East End (Limehouse Causeway: Museum of London sitecode LHC93) the West End (New Palace Yard, Westminster: NPY73), and in south London (Sydenham Brewery: SYB92). Our agenda, inspired by the field of historical archaeology, is to pilot, evaluate and develop the ‘ethnographies of place’ methodology – formulated by historians and historical archaeologists working on nineteenth-century, urban working-class households in Australia (Mayne and Lawrence 1999 and Mayne and Murray 2001) – in order to provide a ‘material history’ of life in Victorian London. Much recent academic work on nineteenth-century cities – and especially on Victorian London – has focused on the way that urban life was represented, such as in art, literature and social investigation. Paralleling wider intellectual developments, this project shifts attention away from the study of discourse to re-examine some of the material dimensions to urban life. Placing archaeological artefacts at the centre of our analyses opens up fresh questions about the nature of everyday domestic life in one of the most dramatic and powerful cities in the world.

The project is being pursued though a unique collaboration between the The City Centre in the Department of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London and the Museum of London Archaeology. It draws upon the rich repository of archaeological artefacts preserved at the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) (part of the Museum of London). A further aim is therefore to promote the greater use and understanding of the remarkable archaeological collections of the LAARC and open it to those from non-archaeological backgrounds wishing to engage with this evidence.

The links on the left provide further information on the project’s background, methods and findings along with details of the research team and our dissemination activities.

For further information, please contact
Alastair Owens (Principal Investigator)
Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS, United Kingdom, E1 4NS



by Edward Oliver. © Queen Mary, University of London 2008
Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8200, Fax: +44 (0)20 8981 6276