The Victorian Studies Centre at 50

The current Special Collections exhibition celebrates 50 years of our University's pioneering Victorian Studies Centre

Members of the Victorian Studies Centre, Summer 2017In the 1960s, Victorian culture was widely derided. Victorian buildings faced demolition and the works of many authors of the period had fallen into neglect. The Victorian Studies Centre at the University of Leicester was founded against this climate of modernism, rejuvenating British scholarship on the nineteenth century.  Born following the establishment of the Victorian Studies program at Indiana University in the United States, it was the first centre of its kind in the United Kingdom.

The Centre began as an informal Victorian Studies group in 1960, under the guidance of Dickens scholar Philip Collins and the urban historian H. J. Dyos. In 1966, thanks to a generous grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the Centre and its MA course were established within the Faculty of Arts. As suggested by the varied interests of its staff, research and teaching in the Centre approached the Victorian period from an interdisciplinary perspective, incorporating literature, economic and social history, urban history, and the history of science. Teaching began in 1967, with a curriculum based around two broad themes: the city and religion. The MA programme and research at the Victorian Studies Centre today continue in the interdisciplinary tradition of its founders.

‘A City Thoroughfare’ from: Gustave Doré, London: a Pilgrimage, (London, 1872)
‘A City Thoroughfare’ from: Gustave Doré, London: a Pilgrimage, (London, 1872)

The exhibition draws on our Library Special Collections to exemplify the research of the Centre: Dickens, the city, women, and science. Four display cases contain some of the most significant Victorian items in the library’s special collections, such as the original serial parts of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit and an early edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Alongside these items are displayed some less well-known examples of Victorian print culture important to the work of current PhD students and staff, including Victorian periodicals from the library’s extensive collection. Finally, the exhibition includes recent works published by staff in the Centre. The exhibition demonstrates not only the richness and variety of Victorian culture but also the Centre’s diverse approaches to the study of this fascinating period.

The exhibition runs from 22 November 2017 until 9 March 2018 in the basement of the David Wilson Library, and may be viewed from Monday to Saturday between 9.30am and 5pm and on Sunday between 12.30pm and 5.30pm on Sunday. Entry to the Library is free but security controlled. Ask for admission to the Special Collections exhibition at reception. See Maps and Directions for further information about how to find us.

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