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Charles Dickens and Victorian Disasters

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Geoff Hale.

Light refreshments available from 19:00. All welcome.

Charles Dickens rose to fame as a novelist because he described society in early Victorian Britain both accurately and evocatively. That skill came about through his work as a journalist, and his many first-hand experiences of events. He continued throughout his life to report on major incidents and newsworthy ítems, and was able to use those reports as the factual basis of his novels. His experiences of the railways were especially important, and he made great use of them in his novels such as Dombey and Son. But it also included a major maritime disaster, the sinking of The Royal Charter in a storm in 1859, when he lost a near relative. Later experiences included his own involvement in a railway disaster, at Staplehurst in 1865, a major trauma which led him to include the accident at the end of Our Mutual Friend, and led him to write a timely ghost story, The Signalman. Many of those disasters were caused by materials used in unacceptable applications, but especially cast iron in tension. Lessons were not learnt quickly and bridge failures continued throughout the period, and reflect poorly on the infrastructure of the railway network.

This talk is part of the Cambridge and Anglian Materials Society meetings series.

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