The Book

What the Victorians Threw Away

Our great grandparents the Victorians are not too far away. We can read about them, see them in old photos, even live in their houses. If we really want to get close to them we can visit a museum. Alternatively, we can go through their rubbish. What the Victorians Threw Away is a unique exploration of the lives of ordinary Victorians, viewed through their rubbish. Whether it’s medicine bottles telling us what illnesses they had, caviar pots showing the luxuries they enjoyed, or nursery rhyme cups revealing how they reared their children, Dr Licence has literally dug it up.

Going around the country, he pinpointed three very different households: a post office in Shropshire, labourers’ cottages in Kent, and a Norfolk rectory. Then he excavated their rubbish dumps, each of them packed with stories…

With 118 pages and 90 colour illustrations, What the Victorians Threw Away is one of the most intimate encounters you’ll have with the generation that invented landfill. Recovering forgotton lives in colourful detail, it also tells of the rise of brands and packaging, and the origins of our throwaway society.

Dr Tom Licence

Dr Tom Licence

Senior Lecturer, History, University of East Anglia

Dr Tom Licence is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of East Anglia and a former Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

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What the Victorians Threw Away is available to buy now!


Colour Illustrations