Centuries of Sound on Cambridge 105 Radio – Episode 8 (1900)

1900 radio picture

A journey through the history of recorded sound with James and Sean. This time we reach the 1900s, and hear Arthur Collins, Vess L Ossman, Arthur Pryor, and other stars of the late Victorian era. We even have a recording of Franz Joseph I of Austria & Hungary, made on a piece of wire. Join us as we travel back in time to a forgotten land of sound.

The 1900 House


These days you can’t move for historical reenactment shows, but back in the heady days of 1999 the concept was new, and hadn’t been swallowed up by the often frustrating enforced narratives and predetermined “journeys” which have now made the subgenre barely watchable. The members of the family tasked with living in 1900 find the experience to be genuinely difficult to take, and come out of it saying quite a bit more than “wasn’t that a fascinating experience.” Life was particularly hard for women in 1900, and the makers of the programme have no hesitation in allowing the unfairness of late Victorian life to play itself out with a minimum of interference.

The 1900 House (DVD)
The 1900 House (book)


Jonathan Schneer – London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis

London 1900 Book

Time inexorably marches on at a 12x speed, and sometimes there isn’t the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the moment. I bought this book at Oxfam two weeks ago, but have only had time to read the introduction and two chapters. The one on entertainment was excellent, its description of the cultural value of London Zoo worth it alone. It’s much, much better than 1898. But here comes 1901, and it’s time to prematurely move on.

Jonathan Schneer – London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis

1900 in Art

Vilhelm Hammershøi – Sunbeams

Vilhelm Hammershøi – Sunbeams

Aurelia de Sousa - Self-portrait

Aurelia de Sousa – Self-portrait

Pablo Picasso - Le Moulin de la Galette

Pablo Picasso – Le Moulin de la Galette

L.A. Ring - Sommerdag ved Roskilde Fjord

L.A. Ring – Sommerdag ved Roskilde Fjord

J. W. Waterhouse - Destiny

J. W. Waterhouse – Destiny

Bessborough Street, Pimlico 1900 by Ambrose McEvoy 1878-1927

Ambrose McEvoy – Bessborough Street, Pimlico

Maximilien Luce – Notre Dame de Paris

Maximilien Luce – Notre Dame de Paris

William Orpen – Herbert Everett

William Orpen – Herbert Everett

Mary Cassatt - Young Mother Sewing

Mary Cassatt – Young Mother Sewing

Thomas Eakins - The Thinker, Portrait of Louis N. Kenton

Thomas Eakins – The Thinker, Portrait of Louis N. Kenton

1900 in Film


Joan of Arc

Explosion of a Motor Car

The One-Man Band

Grandma’s Reading Glass

Namo Village, Panorama Taken from a Rickshaw

Messrs Lumb and Co Leaving the Works, Huddersfield

Going To Bed Under Difficulties

Le Danse Des Saisons

Let Me Dream Again

How It Feels To Be Run Over

As Seen Through a Telescope

The Enchanted Drawing

Automobile Parade

Ladies’ Skirt Nailed To A Fence

Attack on a China Mission

L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


I’ve somehow owned a copy of this book since childhood but hadn’t thought to read it until now. It’s weird, and not always in a fun way. I was reminded most of the Grimm fairly tales, with their meandering, unstructured, unresolved plots, confused morals and sudden lurches into violence. The prose itself is a disconcerting mix of the sentimental Victorian style and a sort of pompous late-Twain-esque highfalutin moral fable. Somehow this became one of the best-selling children’s book series of all time and I’m not sure how or why.

L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Full text at Project Gutenberg)
L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Dramatic reading at Librivox)


The Boxer Rebellion


The turmoil that would break into the horrors of the first half of the 20th century was already well underway around the world. In China, a nation due to spend most of those fifty years engaged in civil war, the crisis was already here. Neglected by the Qing Dynasty, humiliated by defeat to western nations in 19th century wars, and almost broken by the terms of their peace treaty with Japan, the Middle Kingdom was ready for one of the bloody uprisings that throw the country into chaos and bring about the end of a dynasty. This time, though, the anger was redirected towards the foreign forces and foreign culture seen to be taking over the country. The Yihequan (known as “Boxers” in English) were a secret martial arts society who believed their techniques made them invulnerable to bullets. 100,000 strong, they stormed across Northern China, killing foreigners and Chinese Christians until reaching Beijing, they received the support of the Empress Dowager and set about besieging the Legation Quarter where the foreign embassies were. In a unique show of unity, Japan, Russia, Britain, France, the United States, Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary joined together to invade Beijing, lift the siege, and set up reparations so massive that their repercussions are still being felt today.

For a history of the Boxer Rebellion, I would suggest the relevant episode of In Our Time, or this one from the China History Podcast, or this one from Stuff You Missed In History Class. This History Channel documentary is ok, as far as History Channel documentaries go:


Finally, the piece of Boxer Rebellion related material I’ve spent the most time with is Robert Coltman’s memoir ‘Beleaguered in Peking’ – an inside account of the siege of the Legations, an entertaining read and a fascinating insight into the mind of an American doctor caught up in historical events.