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90Victorian Review Ritvo's volume is more exciting to read, though not more original or significant for understanding the shapes and workings of empire. The contributors to both volumes are practicing not just history, but "macropoUtics," bywhich Arac and Ritvo mean "the global transformations of the last five decades, which have powerfully challenged the sovereignty of white, Western males" (2). Insofar as both volumes, in their modest, academic, anti-imperializing ways support that challenge, I support them. Patrick Brantlinger Indiana University Sylvia M. Barnard. To Prove I'm Not Forgot: Living and Dying in a Victorian City. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1990. xix + 212. The Beckett Street Cemetery, Leeds, opened in August, 1845, testimony, Sylvia Barnard argues, to the foresight of the Town Council. Over the subsequent decades the fortunes ofthe cemetery mirrored those ofthe city which grew up around its imposing eight foot walls: in its heyday the site of so many Victorian celebrations of death, more recently the vandalized territory of glue sniffers. At the height of its usage in the late Victorian years around three thousand burials a year were registered; subsequently the pace of interment slowed in the years after the Great War. The unstated intent of this study is to use the cemetery as a means of understanding and, in part, reconstructing the Victorian urban community. Properly handled the rich evidence provided by the cemetery's archives, in conjunction with a wealth of municipal records, might have formed the basis of a highly original and insightful investigation of attitudes to death and its ritual. Sadly, it is an opportunity missed; while full of wonderful anecdotes and sketches which reflect the minutiae ofLeeds's local history, there is no attempt to present a unifying argument. Certainly there is no analysis of the changing perceptions to death, and the consequent implications for our understanding of the mentalité of urban society. The author succeeds in recreating a slice of Victorian Ufe, but it is both static and incomplete. The strength of this study Ues in its often moving vignettes reflecting the personal histories of some of the 180,000 who are buried in the Beckett Street Cemetery. Indeed, when pieced together as a collage these vignettes provide a colorful and instructive view of the diversity of Reviews91 Victorian society. The stories must remind us that the necessity of methodological pigeon-hoUng notwithstanding, a stratified society remained a complex web of individuals. This diversity is apparent in a moving chapter on the, for the most part, unfortunates who were members of the British army. To the uninitiated the brutality and inhumanity of barracks' life is startling. To consider that those wives allowed to foUow their husbands overseas were chosen by lottery illustrates the heartiessness of the system. Yet, no matter how interesting, this chapter also reveals the principal shortcoming of the work: evidence culled from a fascinating source is shoehorned into a general overview of urban Ufe which is not in itself original, and which does not reflect an awareness of much recent research. Throughout the book tantalizing avenues of investigation are introduced, occasionally pursued, but seldom assessed. A chapter devoted to the high number of accidental deaths, particularly among children, might have provided a detailed consideration of such social and familial problems as infanticide. Extracted from local newspapers and Medical Officer Reports, the various incidents are in themselves tragic, but not, as represented in this book, particularly illuminating. The author is unable to tie the deaths together, other than to offer the suggestions made some time ago by historians such as Standish Meacham, that a fatalistic streak can be identified in Victorian society, particularly among the poor. Unfortunately, missed opportunities are frequent The reader is informed that burials were important, but not for religious reasons. Why? We may surmise that the ritual ofburial was an important rite ofpassage, but the author does not. When some of the important issues are addressed, such as who was buried in the cemetery, the results are disappointing. An enumeration of interments by occupation becomes a catalogue of personages, rich and poor, together with an explanation of their uplifting, tragic or pathetic Uves. Indeed, as the book progresses it increasingly develops into a means...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 90-92
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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