Top Ten Tuesday

Our upcoming trip to England has a theme of the Industrial Revolution. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic hosted by The Broke and The Bookish on classics, I wanted to explore novels written during the Industrial Revolution.

I was surprised to discover that this was a “thing.” They are called Condition of England novels in reference to a phrase in an 1839 essay that demanded social and political change to improve the lives of workers in England. The Victorian Web has a terrific even-handed article about Condition of England novels, some of which were quite good and others not-so-much.

The article mentions nine novels, so I’ll use my Top 10 list to discover a little about each. To make a tenth, I also found an interesting time-travel novel from the 1970s that features the British Industrial Revolution.

Coningsby by Benjamin Disraeli1. Coningsby; or, The New Generation by Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli, better known as Prime Minister, wrote novels that reflected his political views and promoted his idealism.

2. Sybil, or the Two Nations by Benjamin Disraeli.

3. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. A novel based on the actual murder of a mill owner.

4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. The better known of the Elizabeth Gaskell novels. I saw the BBC production of this, so it’s the only novel on this list that I know the story.

5. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens.

6. Hard Times by Charles Dickens. I thought I read a lot of Charles Dickens in high school but I’ve never read either of these. I’m adding the relatively short Hard Times to my list of books I hope to read this year.

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë7. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. A lesser known book by the author of Jane Eyre set during the Luddite revolts. I might enjoy the early feminism aspects of this novel.

8. Alton Locke by Charles Kingsley.

9. Yeast by Charles Kingsley. I’ve never read this author, although I’ve heard of Hypatia and Westward Ho! Neither of these two books have generated much action on Goodreads, so it seems they are not widely read in our time.

10. A Chance Child by Jill Paton Walsh. A children’s book, originally published in 1978, with time travel and dual stories of poverty in the 19th and 20th century.

Have you read any of these books? Would you recommend them for me to read this year with my British Industrial Revolution theme?

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


Condition of England Novels — A Top 10 Tuesday List #Top10 — 5 Comments

  1. Interesting – I’ve never come across the term ‘Condition of England’ before although I can see how these novels (at least the ones I’ve read) do share some themes. The Dickens and Gaskells would be well worth reading I would say – I’m a huge Dickens fan, but less so with Gaskell, although I appreciate her writing and certainly her skill in drawing a picture of society. Personally I’d skip Kingsley and Disraeli – I don’t think either writer will have aged well. Kingsley was very moralistic and preachy, and Disraeli’s characters were often thinly disguised caricatures of real people, most of whom we wouldn’t know about today.

  2. I’ve been reading a fair amount the Industrial Revolution in England myself–my mother’s family lived and worked in Oldham in the nineteenth century, having come from Ireland in the 1840s. I think Mary Barton and North and South are both far superior to Hard Times–Gaskell knew the world she was writing about, whereas Dickens was a Londoner and only breezed through.

    Shirley is on my reading list for…soon!

    Interesting list. Thanks for sharing.

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