Among the vast array of goods and materials produced during the aggressive onset of industrialism in Britain in the early Victorian period, none was more widely disseminated, more instrumental to everyday life, more essential to the shaping of industrial culture than information. For along with the grand mélange of things that seemed to flow unchecked out of British factories, a river of knowledge (and questions) about how the world worked coursed through every aspect of Victorian life. The era's most conspicuous outward signs of unprecedented material change - steam engines, factories, railroads, urbanization - denoted even grander transformations in the way people thought and acted. Received notions about everything from gender to nationalism, from class to religion, from propriety to biology were open to question. Even assumptions about such fundamentals as space and time were challenged. Not only were people living differently, they were thinking differently, talking and writing differently, acting differently. They were existing differently. Such monumental changes and the effects they wrought became both the form and the substance of nearly all forms of inquiry. On the abstract level, thinkers like Mill, Carlyle, Ruskin, Morris, and Pater took up the issue of “progress” - or at the very least “change” - in terms of its political, moral, and aesthetic implications. Others, from novelists such as Gaskell, Dickens, Disraeli, Kingsley, and Frances Trollope to the new breed of social investigator like Edwin Chadwick, James Kay-Shuttleworth, and Henry Mayhew, while often fully aware of the abstract principles that grounded their work, were more directly invested in the concrete examples of change (as either progress or decline) that quotidian life provided.