Reading & Autodidacts – Writing Lives

Reading & Autodidacts

This is a selection from the large and growing body of work on the social history of reading and autodidact culture. Please contact Helen Rogers ([email protected]) if you think anything should be added to this list.

Altick, Richard D. The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1957.

Baggs, Chris. ‘Radical reading? Working-class libraries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’, in The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, vol. 3 1850-2000, ed. by Alistair Black and Peter Hoare. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006

Breton, Rob. ‘The Stones of Happiness: Ruskin and Working-Class Culture’, Journal of Victorian Culture 10:2 2005 210-28.

Burnett, John ed. Destiny Obscure: Autobiographies of Childhood, Education, and Family from the 1820s to the 1920s London:  Alan Lane, 1982.

Bush, Michael Laccohee, A Message From Mab : The Manchester Working Class and its Attachment to Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Early Nineteenth Century, including an insight into two of his fans, the silk weaver Elijah Ridings and the shoemaker William Campion’, North West Labour History Journal,  29 (2004): 19-25.

Crone, Rosalind. ‘Cries of Murder and Sounds of Bloodshed: The Practice of Reading Cheap Fiction in Working-Class Communities in Early-Victorian London’ in New Perspectives in British Cultural History ed. Rosalind Crone, David Gange, Katy Jones. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2007: 203-13.

Feely, Catherine. ‘From Dialectics to Dancing: Reading, Writing and the Experience of Everyday Life in the Diaries of Frank P. Forster’, History Workshop Journal 69 (2010): 90-110.

Hinton, James. ‘The “Class” Complex’: Mass-Observation and Cultural Distinction in Pre-War Britain’, Past and Present, no. 199, May, 2008: 207-36 

Hyslop, Jonathan. ‘A Scottish Socialist Reads Carlyle in Johannesburg Prison, June 1900: Reflections on the Literary Culture of the Imperial Working Class’ Journal of Southern African Studies 29:3 (2003) 639-56.

Kamper, David Scott. ‘Popular Sunday newspapers, respectability and working-class culture in late Victorian Britain’ in Disreputable Pleasures: Less Virtuous Victorians at Play. London: Cass, 2004 [electronic book]

Kiernan, V.G. “Labour and the Literate in Nineteenth-Century Britain”, in Poets, Politics and the People, ed. Harvey J. Kaye London; New York: Verso, 1989, pp. 152-177.

Lyons, Martyn, “New Readers in the 19th century: Women, Children, Workers”, in A History of Reading in the West, eds. G.Cavallo and Roger Chartier. Oxford: Polity, 1999, 313-44. ()

Lyons, Martyn, A History of Reading and Writing in the Western World, Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010.

Lyons, Martyn, Books – A Living History, London: Thames & Hudson, 2011.

Lyons, Martyn. Readers and Society in Nineteenth-Century France: Workers, Women, Peasants. New York: Palgrave. 2001.

McAleer, Joseph. Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain, 1914-1950. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.

McLaughlin-Jenkins, Erin. ‘Common Knowledge: Science and the Late Victorian Working-class Press’, History of Science 39:4:126 (2001): 445-65.

Murphy, Andrew D. Shakespeare for the People: Working Class Readers, 1800-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008.

Murphy, Paul Thomas. Towards a Working-Class Canon: Literary Criticism in British Working-Class Periodicals, 1816-1858. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1994.

Palmer, Beth and Adelene Buckland eds. A Return to the Common Reader. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011. ()

Paul, Ronald, ‘”A Culture of the People”: Politics and Working-Class Literature in Left Review, 1934-1938’ Left History 8:1 2002.

Rancière, Jacques.The Nights of Labor: the Workers’ Dream in Nineteenth‑Century France, Temple UP, Philadelphia, 1989/Proletarian Nights: The Workers Dream in Nineteenth-Century France. London: Verso, 2012.

Roderick, Anne Baltz, ‘The Importance of Being an Earnest Improver: Class, Caste, and Self-Help in Mid Victorian England.’ Victorian Literature and Culture 29 (2001): 39-50.

Rogers, Helen. ‘The Way to Jerusalem: Reading, Writing and Reform in an Early Victorian Gaol’, Past and Present, 205 ( 2009): 71-104, doi: 10.1093/pastj/gtp039

Rogers, Helen. ‘“Oh, What Beautiful Books!” Captivated Reading in an Early Victorian Gaol.’ Victorian Studies, 55.1 (2012): 57-84.

Rose, Jonathan, ‘”Everyman”: An Experiment in Culture for the Masses,’ Victorian Periodicals Review, 26. 2 1993, 79-87 ()

Rose, Jonathan, ‘Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences.’ Journal of the History of Ideas.  53. 1 (1992): 47-70 (

Rose, Jonathan. ‘Intellectuals Among the Masses: Or, What Was Leonard Bast Really Like?’ Biblion, 2. 2 Spring 1994: 3-18.

Rose, Jonathan. ‘The History of Education as the History of Reading,’ History of Education 36:4-5 2007, 595-605 (

Rose, Jonathan, “A Conservative Canon: Cultural Lag in British Working-Class

Reading Habits,” Libraries and Culture, 33. 1 1998, 98–104. ()

Rose, Jonathan. The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes.  New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2001.

Steedman, Carolyn. The Radical Soldier’s Tale: John Pearman, 1819-1908. London: Routledge, 1988.

Steedman, Carolyn. `Linguistic Encounters of the Fourth Kind.’ Journal of Victorian Culture 1:1 (1996), 54-75.

Vincent, David. Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Working-Class Autobiography. London: Methuen, 1981.

Vincent, David. Literacy and Popular Culture: England 1750-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.

Webb, R.K. The British Working Class Reader, 1790-1848: Literacy and Social Tension. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1955.

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