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Chapter 4 - Loafers

from Part II - The City

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2021

Alistair Robinson
Affiliation:
Birkbeck, University of London
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Summary

Vagrant ‘loafers’ were a preoccupation of novelists and social reformers who saw them as emblematic of social and racial decline during the 1880s and 1890s. This chapter first examines the articles and book-length reports that sought to define and solve the problems of unemployment, inefficiency and vagrancy. These were underwritten by theories of degeneration, social Darwinism and eugenics, ideas that ensured that the vagrant poor were increasingly characterised in ‘scientific’ terms as a biological threat to society and the white ‘imperial’ race. The second half of the chapter examines how this anxiety was expressed in the slum fiction of Arthur Morrison and Margaret Harkness, and in particular how the portrayal of loafers in slum novels and social investigations shaped H. G. Wells’s first dystopia, The Time Machine (1895). Although the influence of social investigation has been noted, Wells’s engagement with the slum novel, and what he perceived to be its failings, has hitherto been overlooked.

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Chapter
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Vagrancy in the Victorian Age
Representing the Wandering Poor in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture
, pp. 130 - 160
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Loafers
  • Alistair Robinson, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Book: Vagrancy in the Victorian Age
  • Online publication: 02 November 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009019392.007
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  • Loafers
  • Alistair Robinson, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Book: Vagrancy in the Victorian Age
  • Online publication: 02 November 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009019392.007
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Loafers
  • Alistair Robinson, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Book: Vagrancy in the Victorian Age
  • Online publication: 02 November 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009019392.007
Available formats
×