My series of Victorian Bookshop Mysteries takes place during a fascinating time period, the 1890′s. From the 1880′s until the beginning of World War I, Europe and North America seemed to run under the belief that there was no problem that couldn’t be solved by technology and good will.
This was the time period when telephones and electricity made their appearances in many homes, particularly in large cities such as London. Automobiles and airplanes began to be useful instruments and not just curiosities. Mass production brought more and better goods to the middle class.
This was also the period when large numbers of people began to have leisure time because inventions meant tasks took less time to perform. Travel, whether across town by bicycle, tram, or Underground, or long distances by ever faster ships and trains, took less time and energy. Labor saving devices made their way into offices, homes, and factories.
Despite lives cut short by diseases seldom fatal with today’s medicine, and poverty many times worse than anything experienced with today’s safety nets, we think of this time period as the last age of innocence. They saw the world and their lives as constantly improving. We look back at this time through the smoke of world wars, depression, and terrorism and see only a simpler age.
For young women of that day, their lives were more taken up by sports, doing “good deeds,” and education than previous generations. During this time, it went from rare to more commonplace to find women attending colleges, although job opportunities for graduates were limited. Fashions changed to allow for freer movement for sports. During this time, skirt lengths began to rise from the floor to just above the ankle.
I chose this time period for Georgia Fenchurch and the Archivist Society because attitudes were changing. Women had more freedom of movement than during the earlier Victorian period. Universal education became the law. Travel increased between countries and continents, and with it, communication between people, businesses, and governments. And before World War I, there was an innocence about society that with strong leadership, improved sanitation, and good intentions, life would continue to improve.
All of these advances created a world where Georgia had both the freedom to go about her investigations and the expectation by society that she would do good deeds. This was also a world where universal education and more leisure time meant more customers for her bookshop. Money coming in from the colonies and an increase in manufacturing led to more people buying luxuries including antiquarian books from Fenchurch Books. Along with the innocence of society, Georgia has a belief that her individual efforts can solve crimes and make the world a better place.
And isn’t that something we all hope for despite terrible events in today’s world? Join me in the simpler age of The Vanishing Thief, the first of the Victorian Bookshop Mystery Series.