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Record linkage and the exploration of nineteenth-century social groups: a methodological perspective on the Glasgow middle class in 1861

  • Stana Nenadic


Recent historical studies of social groups have stressed the need to know, in detail at a household and personal level, the precise objective character of individuals and their circumstances – the physical profile – to the extent that these can be defined, quantified and measured. One of the areas of success in the analysis of social change has come in studies that emphasize local situations. The local area – city, town, or district – was the context in which, for all but the small element who formed the upper class, life was conducted, social contacts circumscribed and power struggles and conflicts articulated. Local case-studies, particularly of urban and therefore geographically compact populations, have emerged as a major mechanism through which the details of dynamic social relationships can be identified and juxtaposed.



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1 The author is grateful to Dr R. H. Trainor for comments on an early draft of this article.

2 Goubert, P., ‘Local history’, Daedalus, c (1971), 113–14.

3 Morris, R. J., The Making of the British Middle Class 1815–70 (ESRC Report no. G00/24/0007, 1982); Trainor, R. H., ‘Authority and social structure in an industrialized area: a study of three Black Country towns 1840–90’ (D.Phil, thesis, University of Oxford, 1981); Koditschek, T. S., ‘Class formation and the Bradford bourgeoisie’ (Ph.D. thesis, Princeton University, 1981); Davidoff, L. and Hall, C., ‘The architecture of public and private life, English middle class society in a provincial town 1780–1850’, in Fraser, D. and Sutcliffe, A. (eds), The Pursuit of Urban History (1983).

4 This preoccupation contributed to the introduction of the national population census, and statistical surveys arising out of such problem issues as the Poor Law or sanitation provision.

5 One of the reasons underpinning the development of regular listings of voters or local ratepayers.

6 There is also a computerized sample of the 1851 census – see Anderson, M., ‘The national sample from the 1851 Census of Great Britain, sample and data handling procedures’, Urban History Yearbook (1977), 559; Armstrong, W. A., The Census Enumerators' Books; a commentary', in Lawton, R. (ed.), The Census and Social Structure (1978).

7 Morris, R. J., ‘In search of the urban middle class: record linkage and methodology, Leeds 1832’, Urban History Yearbook (1976), 1520.

8 Problems associated with computer technology are being eroded on several fronts. Recently several organizations have developed with an emphasis on computer applications in the field (such as the Association for History and Computing). There are increasing numbers of history departments in higher education with active computerization projects (notably the DISH Project at Glasgow University, and the Computers in Teaching Project at Edinburgh). Also many forms of historical computing will be assisted by future advances in the technology of data entry (through optical character readers, for example).

9 Nenadic, S., ‘The structure, values and influence of the Scottish urban middle class: Glasgow 1800 to 1870’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Glasgow, 1986).

10 The term ‘middle class’, as used in this study, refers broadly to those who were neither manual workers (except where employers), nor aristocrats and landed gentry. See J. Raynor, The Middle Class (1969) for a discussion of definitions.

11 Gerth, H. H. and Mills, C. W. (eds), From Max Weber – Essays in Sociology (1967).

12 In a study of the nineteenth-century urban middle classes, 1861 is possibly the best year for sources. By 1871, following the Reform Act of 1867, the character of the Electoral List had changed completely. Urban groups within Scotland are especially well served by the data of 1861. Due to a concern with overcrowding in Scottish cities the Census included information on the number of rooms inhabited by each household. The reform of Scottish urban rating in 1854 had resulted in accurate and regular ratepayers' lists by 1861. There was also the listing of Scottish Confirmation Inventories (detailed lists of movable wealth at death) which by the middle of the century had acquired a regular and comprehensive form.

13 Schofield, R. S., ‘Sampling in historical research’, in Wrigley, E. A. (ed.), Nineteenth century society: essays in the use of quantitative methods for the study of social data (1972), 146–90.

14 The Poll Book for 1832 is used in Morris, Making of the British Middle Class.

15 Neither, it would seem, were they specified in other areas. See Corfield, P. J., ‘Giving directions to the town: the early town Directories’, Urban History Yearbook (1984), 2235. Also London Post Office Directories 1846, PP 1846 (586) XLVL 173.

16 The sources used were: The Glasgow Voters Manual; being a list of all those entitled to vote for members for the first reformed parliament, with the boundaries of the Burgh (1832); Post Office Annual Directory – Glasgow 1832–33 (1832); Post Office Annual directory – Glasgow 1861–62 (1861); Mitchell Library, Glasgow. MS Register of person entitled to vote in the election of members to serve in Parliament 1861–62.

17 In this study it was necessary to use samples: the Glasgow Directory of 1832 included nearly 9,000 entries while that of 1861 had about 17,000; and there were similar numbers in the Electoral Lists.

18 This approach also dealt with the difficulty inherent in the post-1856 Glasgow electoral lists of multiple entries for those individuals owning property in more than one ward.

19 Phillips, J. A., ‘Achieving a critical mass while avoiding an explosion: letter cluster sampling and nominal record linkage’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, ix, 3 (1979) 493508.

20 For a discussion of the difficulties of cluster sampling see W. G. Cochran, Sampling Techniques (1963), esp. sections 8.5 ‘Populations in random order’, 9.1 ‘Reasons for cluster sampling’, 9.9 ‘Sampling with probability proportional to size’.

21 Schofield, ‘Sampling in historical research’, 153–4.

22 Withers, C. W. J., ‘Kirk, club and culture change: Gaelic chapels, Highland societies and the urban Gaelic subculture in eighteenth-century Scotland’, Social History, x (1985), 171–92.

23 Though such a relationship might exist in other populations.

24 MS Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh. VR 102/85–94 Glasgow Rental Books for 1861.

25 To compensate, a small number of randomly applied dummy values were included in the linkage – the effect of which was to refine rather than alter the observable trends in domestic property occupation.

26 MS Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh. SC36/48/46–48 Glasgow Confirmation Inventories 1860–65.

27 Consequently in the main study the confirmation inventories of 1861 were sampled systematically and not linked.

28 See also Morris, R. J., ‘The middle class and the property cycle during the Industrial Revolution’, in Smout, T. C. (ed.), The Search for Wealth and Stability (1979).

29 Providing interesting parallels with work on other towns such as Koditschek, ‘Class formation in Bradford’.

30 A. Stewart et al., Social Stratification and Occupation (1980) sets a modern theoretical background to occupational status.

31 Though tenement flats were common in Glasgow, and most middle-class families lived in flats in 1861, the house held a higher status.

32 This would seem to run contrary to some recent discussions on the role of servantkeeping – see Higgs, E., ‘Domestic servants and households in Victorian England’, Social History, viii (1982), 201–10. Though, as indicated in table 3, particularly in the differences between shopkeepers and tradesmen, servant-keeping was a complex issue.

33 Though merchants and manufacturers dominated wealth and status hierarchies in Glasgow they were not occupationally homogeneous groupings, and have not, therefore, been employed in this illustration.

34 Details on family income were found in qualitative sources such as diaries and occasionally in confirmation inventories. Relatively reliable aggregate figures for the city could be derived from a combination of PP1860 xxxix Pt. 2 Property and Income Tax p. 396 and R. D. Baxter, National Income: the United Kingdom (1868), 53.

35 This showed many parallels with structures of national wealth in the nineteenth century: see Rubinstein, W. D., ‘The Victorian middle classes: wealth, occupation and geography’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser., xxxv (1982), 602–23.

36 Simpson, M., ‘Urban transport and the development of Glasgow's West End’, Journal of Transport History, I (19711972), 146–60.

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Record linkage and the exploration of nineteenth-century social groups: a methodological perspective on the Glasgow middle class in 1861

  • Stana Nenadic


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