Episodes

12 episodes
  • Oct 18 2018

    Of course, all families, high born and low have secrets. Confidential conditions of mind or body. Black sheep. Skeletons in cupboards. Unmentionable uncles. Naughty nephews... aunties who aren't... conventional. More often than not it boils down to something - sexual.

    This episode is about the keeping and uncovering of family secrets. In a way it unlocks all the secrets in all our episodes.

    Many Victorians, especially the more successful ones, feared shame. In a way this fear was something quite new. A new and growing newspaper industry was keen to amplify that shame. And a new middle class, desperate to cling to its new-found monied status, felt threatened. And, new theories about heredity, coming later in the century, meant that (perish the thought!) shamefulness could be passed on – like red hair or big feet - from generation to generation.

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    44 mins
  • Oct 18 2018

    Step right up, step right up and don’t be shy - welcome to Victorian Secrets, and the secrets of... The Freak Show. The secrets of enormously fat men and bearded ladies, the secrets of exotic women with enticingly large buttocks, the secrets of Siamese Twins and dwarf families and, in particular, the secrets of our own, our very own Aztec Children, seen by half a million people on the European continent before they publicly revealed their own, personal, extraordinary secret.

    We’ll go backstage to hear the terrible secrets of the freaks themselves, we’ll lift the lace curtains of Buckingham Palace, where our own Queen, god bless her, took tea with the tiny, the towering and the terribly formed.

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    37 mins
  • Oct 18 2018

    This episode will penetrate some of the secrets of Victorian sexuality, public and private and will challenge some deeply held misconceptions.

    We tend to think of the Victorians as dyed in the wool prudes, and we have latched onto the idea that the Victorians felt their values of self-discipline, temperance and hard work were threatened by the temptations of the flesh. This episode will show in enjoyable detail that ordinary Victorians’ attitudes to sex was for the most part enthusiastic, unembarrassed and surprisingly well informed. Apart, that is, from one secret sexual practice that was loathed, feared and tragically misunderstood.

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    34 mins
  • Oct 18 2018

    This episode examines how the role of women in education, marriage, divorce, sexuality, psychology and politics were all debated in the Victorian era. Some women were becoming active in society, whether men liked it or not- and some used the power of the pen to assert themselves.

    In particular we’ll meet Mary Carr, ‘Queen of the Forty Thieves’, an all-female criminal gang, later known as the 40 Elephants, well known for attracting men and then turning what looked like seduction into extortion. They were shoplifters, blackmailers and dab hands at swindling people – mainly men - out of money....

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    45 mins
  • Oct 18 2018

    This episode of Victorian Secrets recounts the lives, times and experiences of Black Victorians in Britain.

    Historians have for the most part kept the details of these lives secret, either by forgetting or ignoring them. We will also examine the responses of diverse British citizens to humans they saw as ‘other’.

    At the beginning of Victoria’s reign, we British thought we knew all about slavery. It had bought us great wealth and power, after which we had taken the moral high ground and abolished it. But that didn’t mean the British had abolished prejudice.

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    40 mins
  • Oct 18 2018

    This episode will explore the famous network of pipes and ducts and drainage systems which will take us deep underground, into the Victorians’ public pride and joy, the new London sewers they built mainly in the second half of the 19th century, to serve an increasing number of Victorians.

    A system flushed, if you’ll excuse the expression, with its own success. Imminently we will go round the bend, and the aim of our decent will be to enjoy some more subterranean secrets of the era.

    Later we’ll go underground for possibly our most grisly secret fear, which late Victorians took to their graves.

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    40 mins
  • Oct 18 2018

    This episode of Victorian Secrets is all about ‘The look’. It’s about a sudden image-consciousness among men and women. And it’s about the secrets related to that image consciousness, some of which are regrettably salacious.

    Just as men were pondering how long it would take to grow a really imposing beard, women were wondering how long their beauty would last, and what they could do to prolong their feminine allure.

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    31 mins
  • Oct 18 2018

    This episode takes us to Victorian secrets ‘on the Wilde Side’ – although Oscar Wilde, often seen as a central character, only has a small part to play in our look at male same sex love (don’t worry, we’ll also have an episode about female same sex love as well).

    The single unifying identifier of male same-sex activity was its criminality. Until 1861 – that’s 24 years into Victoria’s Reign – buggery was punishable by death. Thereafter, it could carry a prison sentence of penal servitude for life. And the ambiguous ‘Gross indecency’, a crime dreamt up in 1885, meant almost any kind of affectionate or so called effeminate male-male activity could be regarded as criminal.

    Sex between men is the secret-ist secret of life in Victorian England. Yet we can reveal that were it not for an act of fate, the throne on which Victoria sat might have been later occupied by a secretly gay monarch.

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    47 mins
1-8 of 12 Episodes