How was life different in Victorian times?
This collection of documents relating to the lives of the Victorians is aimed at any teacher or student engaged in a local study of the Victorian period. The sources could be used to help provide a sense of period and show pupils the type of sources they may encounter when looking at material in their local archive, museum or record office. The collection includes pictures, drawings, maps, photographs, advertisements, reports, census pages, letters and newspaper extracts. The entire collection plus transcripts can be downloaded as a zip file, to make them easy for you to use in the classroom.
These documents can be used alongside our interactive Victorians website which also contains a huge number of sources on the period from The National Archives and objects from Victoria and Albert Museum. It would be helpful for the pupils to watch the opening video in Start Here on our Victorians website before looking at the sources to get the most out of the questions and activities as well as looking at general guidance questions below on how to evaluate and understand documents.
- What type of document is it? (letter, report, photograph or newspaper)
- Can you find a date?
- What is the document saying?
- Check the meaning of any words you are unsure about
- What names appear in the document?
- Does the document show the writer’s opinions/values?
- Are there any clues about the intended audience for the document?
- Why was the document written?
- Does it have any limitations?
- Does it link to other documents in the group?
- Does it share the same ideas, attitudes and arguments?
- How would you explain any differences between these documents?
Teachers may want to break their class up into groups and get students to feed back on a selection of documents and/or annotate them at the white board. Others may wish to introduce pupils to these documents to create a wider enquiry question of their own, for example on the role of women, the lives of rich and poor or childhood in Victorian times.
Alternatively, teachers may wish to use the collection to develop their own resources or encourage students to ‘curate’ their own ‘exhibition’ of the most significant sources on the Victorian period.
Finally, for more suggestions on how to carry out a local study use our video guidance in the Victorians website.
- Victorian lives on Pinterest
Come face to face with the Victorians on Pinterest
- Historical Directories
An online library of local and trade directories for England and Wales, from 1750 to 1919
- Census records
These records for England and Wales from 1841 to 1911 are available online through partners of The National Archives. It is free to search their websites, but there is a charge to download documents
- English Heritage
Search the extensive photographic collection by date, theme or location
- Find an archive