The Vicious Victorians

Merci! Thank you for coming today, I, your host, Joan D’Arc, will guide you through today’s topic of the Vicious Victorians!

Maybe they weren’t all bad. At least they had great style.

Today’s show is a summary of a presentation Zach gave at a steampunk convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. No, I have no idea what steampunk is.

Staff – This is steampunk, Joan.
Joan – I still don’t get it.

Well, First off, we must consider that many people have an idealized version of what the Victorian age was like. It wasn’t all just fancy dresses, impeccable manners and riding goggles. There was a dark side to the Victorians that Zach explained in his presentation. First, it was a time of peace in Europe, but expansionist colonialism everywhere else in the world. Britain led the way as the world’s #1 super power. It was the Pax Britanica, the British peace.

The sun never set on the British Empire, the world’s largest empire ever. It spanned the globe to every inhabited continent. Not bad for stinking English. My beloved French would have done a better job, I assure you.

Behind the coy smiles, charm and polished manners was an under layer of violence. Domestic violence, violent crime and warfare against native populations that dared think they should have a say in their own country.

This pictures sums up the politics of colonialism during the Victorian age.

But, let’s get to the good stuff. Let’s look at the tools of this Victorian violence.

Here is the British Webley. The handgun of the British empire. A very nice piece. The handgun that won an empire I suppose.

The Webely deserves another look.

This lovely piece here is called a “Volcanic Pistol.” I love the attention to decoration the Victorians had. Say what you will, they were good with art.

This is one of the earliest examples of a semi-automatic firearm. The Bergmann M1896. A very unique looking and rare gun.

A set of brass knuckles, knife and if that wasn’t enough, a gun as well. You can beat, stab and shoot someone all with one handy instrument.

And here’s what it looks like opened up in attack mode.

Here’s a pretty mean “pepper box” style gun. Before they invented semi-automatic, they tried to get a multi-shot gun. Their solution was multiple pre-loaded barrels. It is rather intimidating, oui?

Here is a Le-mat revolver. A revolver with one particularly interesting addition. It has two barrels, one for the cylinder and another is a single shot shotgun for some added firepower. Very dangerous.

A harmonica pistol. One barrel but several pre-loaded chambers.

Here is a Galand pocket revolver for gentlemen. Notice the Victorian decoration.

And here is the Galand as it’s opened for loading.

The American Bowie knife. Did not think this was Victorian? Remember, the Wild West was during the Victorian era. The quintessential Victorian horror novel, Dracula, featured a Texan armed with a giant Bowie knife.

A Mershon & Hollingsworth self cocking revolver. It uses a piece of clockwork to re-cock the pistol after every shot.

Here’s another early semi-automatic pistol, a Borchardt C93. A rather…odd looking firearm.

Let us not forget one of the most popular rifles of the time, the Winchester 1895.

A Sharps rifle mounted with a primitive scope.

The Victorians had many, many more weapons they used to kill each other and the local inhabitants. It was a time of invention and experimentation and to be honest, some of the experiments weren’t quite successful. But some were quite interesting and paved the way future firearm technology. This was just a recap. No, I don’t know why Zach’s not here to do his own recap.


Oh, apparently he’s busy watching something called “anime.” I will never understand your 21st century.


4 comments on “The Vicious Victorians

  1. Joe in PNG says:

    What kind of Japanese cartoon is he watching? Is it the one with the giant robots, or the one where everyone has strange hair?

  2. Paul Genesse says:

    Great presentation at Steamfest. The recap was good and very useful, especially with all the names and such. Thanks!

    Paul Genesse
    Author of The Nubian Queen in Steampunk’d edited by Jean Rabe

  3. kerrvillian says:

    You neglected the wonderful Maxim machine gun which first went into service in 1884, prime Victorian time.

    It killed more than all of the Webleys combined, mostly used on all sides in WWI.

  4. Paula Byrden says:

    Hello, can we have permission to include some images of the victtorian guns in the background set dressing of a victorian television show? Many thanks Paula

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