England's Dark Modernity: Magic, the Supernatural, and the Victorian City

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

    Description of Activity

    While nineteenth-century urbanisation and industrialisation have traditionally been understood as agents of a disenchanted modernity, this talk examines how Victorian England’s cities were full of magical practices and supernatural beliefs. Despite contemporary critics’ ongoing attempts to present it as a fading, archaic remnant of the past, magic remained a vibrant, lived experience in Victorian urban culture. Often legitimised through notions of ‘popular religion’, magical practices were employed as a means of protection against illness and crime in industrial cities, thereby granting a sense of influence over the uncertainties of urban life. Victorian magistrates continued to hear accounts of witchcraft and supernatural powers, while a wide range of city-dwelling magical practitioners earned a living in a shadowy, occult economy that operated at the fringes of the law. In drawing this obscured history out of the shadows of Victorian England, this talk will complicate the relationship between magic and modernity. While modernity’s champions sought to use magical beliefs to distance themselves from previous generations, this talk will demonstrate how magic was intimately entwined in the unsettling urban experiences and dark social consequences of nineteenth-century modernisation.
    Period18 Dec 2018
    Event titleSensational Cities Lecture Series 2018
    Event typeOther
    LocationAntwerp, BelgiumShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • Magic
    • Victorians
    • Urban culture