Bread Winner An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy Emma Griffin

Publication date:
28 Apr 2020
Yale University Press
320 pages: 235 x 156mm
32 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

The forgotten story of how ordinary families managed financially in the Victorian era—and struggled to survive despite increasing national prosperity

The Victorian era saw remarkable economic growth and a rise in real wages. But not everyone shared in the nation’s prosperity. Many families continued to live in grinding poverty with women and children usually faring worst.

In this incisive account, Emma Griffin unlocks the homes of Victorian England to examine the lives—and finances—of the people who lived there. Griffin looks at how the family economy was frequently torn apart by rising prosperity and reveals the hardships experienced by those who got left behind. For women and their children, economic security was determined not merely by wage levels, but by more personal factors such as having (and keeping) a wage-earning husband and persuading him to spend his earnings on the family rather than himself. Drawing on a collection of over six hundred working-class autobiographies, including more than two hundred written by women, Griffin sheds new light on life in Victorian Britain.

Emma Griffin is professor of modern British history at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of five books, including Liberty's Dawn and Blood Sport.