The Victorian Eye: A Political History of Light and Vision in Britain, 1800-1910

Paperback | November 1, 2008

byChris Otter

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During the nineteenth century, Britain became the first gaslit society, with electric lighting arriving in 1878. At the same time, the British government significantly expanded its power to observe and monitor its subjects. How did such enormous changes in the way people saw and were seen affect Victorian culture?
 
To answer that question, Chris Otter mounts an ambitious history of illumination and vision in Britain, drawing on extensive research into everything from the science of perception and lighting technologies to urban design and government administration. He explores how light facilitated such practices as safe transportation and private reading, as well as institutional efforts to collect knowledge. And he contends that, contrary to presumptions that illumination helped create a society controlled by intrusive surveillance, the new radiance often led to greater personal freedom and was integral to the development of modern liberal society.

The Victorian Eye’s innovative interdisciplinary approach—and generous illustrations­—will captivate a range of readers interested in the history of modern Britain, visual culture, technology, and urbanization.

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From the Publisher

During the nineteenth century, Britain became the first gaslit society, with electric lighting arriving in 1878. At the same time, the British government significantly expanded its power to observe and monitor its subjects. How did such enormous changes in the way people saw and were seen affect Victorian culture? To answer that questi...

Chris Otter is assistant professor of modern European history at the Ohio State University.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:392 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:November 1, 2008Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226640779

ISBN - 13:9780226640778

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgements

Introduction: Light, Vision, and Power

1. The Victorian Eye: The Physiology, Sociology, and Spatiality of Vision, 1800-1900
2. Oligoptic Engineering: Light and the Victorian City
3. The Age of Inspectability: Vision, Space, and the Victorian City
4. The Government of Light: Gasworks, Gaslight, and Photometry
5. Technologies of Illumination, 1870-1910
6. Securing Perception: Assembling Electricity Networks

Conclusion: Patterns of Perception

Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"A rich history full of previously understudied spaces, objects and connections. . . . In leaving the focus on surveillance and spectacle aside, the breadth of topics of historical interest increases dramatically. In this regard, The Victorian Eye should be commended for its originality and ambition."