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A Christmas Carol in History


At 172 years old, A Christmas Carol withstands the test of time.

Whichever holiday you celebrate – or if you abstain altogether – A Christmas Carol‘s lessons of selflessness and self-reflection are universal, and the story greatly influenced historical traditions.

Read on for six facts about the classic novella from our resident Dickens expert, UC Berkeley Professor Maggie Sokolik, and enroll in A Christmas Carol” by Dickens: BerkeleyX Book Club, which discusses Dickens’ work in a more in-depth fashion.

Charles_Dickens-A_Christmas_Carol-Title_page-First_edition_18431. Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843 as the first in a series of what he called Christmas Books.

2. A Christmas Carol became almost instantly popular. It influenced the way people thought, and continue to think, about Christmas. In fact, Dickens is often credited with having “invented” modern ideas about the Christmas season.

3. Dickens probably had many sources for his story; however, his terrible childhood experiences, his sympathy for the poor, and different traditional Christmas stories contributed most to this novella.

Queen_Victoria_18874. A Christmas Carol was published in the early Victorian era (the period of Queen Victoria’s reign, from June 1837 until her death in January 1901) in Britain. During this period, there was nostalgia for old Christmas traditions.

5. The interest in Christmas traditions was furthered reinvigorated by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German-born husband. He brought to Great Britain some new traditions, like the German Christmas tree and the Christmas card. He also helped revive interest in carol singing, which previously had been lost due to social changes of the era.

the-field-lane-ragged-schools-with-girls-lined-up-for-disciplinary-action6. Dickens toured some tin mines in 1843, where he saw children working in horrible conditions. He also visited the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several London schools which educated starving, illiterate street children. All of these experiences are believed to have been brought into A Christmas Carol.

Learn more about A Christmas Carol.