19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, No 13 (2011)

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Reading Room Geographies of Late-Victorian London: The British Museum, Bloomsbury and the People’s Palace, Mile End

Susan David Bernstein

Abstract


By the 1880s, the Reading Room of the British Museum in Bloomsbury provided opportunities for networking, writing, and reading among many middle-class women including Amy Levy, Eleanor Marx, and Clementina and Constance Black. Attempting to promote a similar egalitarian space for acquiring knowledge for working-class 'rough readers' was Walter Besant's People's Palace Library in Mile End. This essay explores the library work of Constance Black [Garnett] at the People's Palace where collisions across class reveal the challenges of East End reform in contrast to the celebration of a democratic reading room at the British Museum celebrated by Levy in her 1889 essay.

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