Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-888d5979f-lv79x Total loading time: 0.603 Render date: 2021-10-26T08:18:28.146Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Historiography, Narrative, and the Nineteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2014


The narrative stories of nineteenth-century British history have been pulled seriously out of joint. At one time, not too long ago, the master narrative of nineteenth-century history seemed fairly straightforward. The nineteenth century raised the curtain on the modern age; its politics, economics, social relations, and culture presaged the world we know from our own times. If there was one organizing principle that the historiography privileged above all others, it was the idea of change. This was the century of growth and change—generally of a progressive kind. But new stories are now being told that force us to reconsider this picture. The spotlight is being directed toward themes of continuity that challenge the representation of the nineteenth century as the moment of modernity. It is this shift from change to continuity as the basic organizing principle of the field that is the starting point for this article.

The touch of continuity is everywhere. The traditional historiography rested secure in the conception that the nineteenth century was shaped and dominated by the fact of Britain as the first industrial nation. But current research has dissolved the Industrial Revolution into the long-term trends of economic growth; now the very name itself is jeopardized. Whereas the nineteenth century was once regarded as the age of the bourgeoisie, it is the landed elites and their various allies who now occupy center stage. The urban middle class has been returned to the provincial peripheries.

Research Article
Copyright © North American Conference of British Studies 1996

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 See my Does the Notion of Victorian England Make Sense?” in Cities, Class and Communication: Essays in Honour of Asa Briggs, ed. Fraser, Derek (Hassocks, Sussex, 1990)Google Scholar, for an early formulation of this argument, which I intend to develop more fully in a book tentatively titled “Contest and Containment: Britain, 1680–1880.”

2 For this new political history, see the recent books by Vernon, James, Politics and the People: A Study in English Political Culture, 1815–1867 (Cambridge, 1993)Google Scholar; and Parry, Jonathan, The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain (New Haven, Conn., 1994)Google Scholar.

3 See Cannon, John, Aristocratic Century: The Peerage of Eighteenth Century England (Cambridge, 1984)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Clark, J. C. D., English Society, 1660–1832 (Cambridge, 1985)Google Scholar; Langford, Paul, A Polite and Commercial People: England, 1727–1783 (Oxford, 1989)Google Scholar, Public Life and the Propertied Englishman, 1688–1788 (Oxford, 1990)Google Scholar; and Cronin, James, The Politics of State Expansion: War, State and Society in Twentieth Century Britain (London, 1991)Google Scholar.

4 Thus, Thompson's, F. M. L.Rise of Respectable Society (London, 1988)Google Scholar main organizing category is, as the title suggests, the very Victorian notion of “respectability.” Robbins's, KeithNineteenth Century Britain: England, Scotland, and Wales: The Making of a Nation (Oxford, 1989)Google Scholar attempts to understand the century as marked by the emergence of a “modern” British identity, but it is similarly unpersuasive because it fails to ask what was distinctive and peculiar about the nineteenth century in this respect.

5 See Trevelyan, George Macauley, British History in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1922; 2d ed., London, 1937)Google Scholar; Evans, Eric, Forging of the Modern State (London, 1983)Google Scholar; Corrigan, Philip and Sayer, Derek, The Great Arch (Oxford, 1985)Google Scholar; Briggs, Asa, Age of Improvement, 1783–1867 (London, 1959)Google Scholar; Perkin, Harold, Origins of Modern English Society (London, 1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Young, G. M., Victorian England: Portrait of an Age, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1900)Google Scholar; Porter, Roy, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (Harmondsworth, 1982)Google Scholar; Gatrell, V. A. C., Britain, 1800–1870 (Harmondsworth, in press)Google Scholar; Harris, Jose, Private Lives, Public Spirit: A Social History of Britain, 1870–1914 (London, 1993)Google Scholar.

6 See Briggs, , Age of Improvement, 1783–1867, pp. 1–5, 17, 406–7, 523Google Scholar, for examples of these points; quote is on p. 1. Also see Woodward, Llewellyn, The Age of Reform, 1815–1870 (Oxford, 1992), pp. 151Google Scholar.

7 For representative examples both of the recognition of continuities and their treatment as anachronistic survivals, see Clark, G. Kitson, The Making of Victorian England (London, 1962; reprint, London, 1994), pp. 59–63, 206–10, 277Google Scholar, and An Expanding Society: Britain, 1830–1900 (Cambridge, 1967), pp. 10, 12–13, 18, 20, 28Google Scholar. Quote is from The Making of Victorian England, p. 64.

8 See Perkin.

9 Houghton, Walter, The Victorian Frame of Mind (New Haven, Conn., 1957), pp. 14Google Scholar. Houghton's quote is on p. 1; Thomas Arnold is cited by Houghton on p. 4. Note how Briggs warns against this historical borrowing when he remarks that “any modern interpretation of what many outstanding Victorians considered to be an age of improvement should be coolly critical and not simply derivative.” But he ends up by adopting the “commanding themes” as defined by such Victorians. See Briggs, , Age of Improvement, pp. 34Google Scholar. Of course, this does not mean that everyone approved of this transition—or of certain aspects of it. On the complicated relationship between medievalism and Victorian culture, see, e.g., Girouard, Mark, The Return to Camelot (New Haven, Conn., 1981)Google Scholar; and, of course, Clark, Kenneth, The Gothic Revival (London, 1928)Google Scholar.

10 See Clark, G. Kitson, The Making of Victorian England, pp. 62, 63, 277Google Scholar. We should note that the logic of much of Edward Thompson's work was to bridge the gap between the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. But it was a logic that did not receive his full attention.

11 Briggs, Asa, Victorian Cities (London, 1963)Google Scholar. Eighteenth-century history revolves around these themes; see, e.g., Langford, A Polite and Commercial People and Public Life and the Propertied Englishman; McKendrick, Neil, Brewer, John, and Plumb, J. H., The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth Century England (Bloomington, Ind., 1982)Google Scholar; Porter, Roy and Brewer, John, eds., Consumption and the World of Goods (London, 1993)Google Scholar; Borsay, Peter, ed., The Eighteenth Century English Town: A Reader in Urban History, 1688–1828 (London, 1990)Google Scholar; Speck, W. A., Stability and Strife (London, 1985)Google Scholar; Earle, Peter, The Making of the English Middle Class: Business, Society and Family Life in London, 1660–1730 (London, 1989)Google Scholar; Colley, Linda, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1832 (New Haven, Conn., 1992)Google Scholar; Money, John, Experience and Identity: Birmingham and the West Midlands (Montreal, 1977)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Jenkins, Philip, The Making of a Ruling Class: The Glamorgan Gentry, 1640–1790 (Cambridge, 1983)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 For the best statement of the new econometric history of the Industrial Revolution, see Crafts, N. F. R., British Economic Growth during the Industrial Revolution (Oxford, 1985)Google Scholar. For some restatements of the discontinuity argument, see Mokyr, Joel, ed., The British Industrial Revolution: An Economic Perspective (Boulder, Colo., 1993)Google Scholar; and Berg, Maxine and Hudson, Pat, “Rehabilitating the Industrial Revolution,” Economic History Review 45, no. 1 (February 1992): 2450CrossRefGoogle Scholar. It is important to note that the question of continuity in economic growth was always recognized, but, as in the general histories, it was ultimately pushed aside; see Deane, Phyllis, The First Industrial Revolution (Cambridge, 1964), pp. 15Google Scholar. A good recent attempt to rescue the term “industrial revolution” by defining it as the process of raw material substitution is Wrigley, E. A., Continuity, Chance and Change: The Character of the Industrial Revolution in England (Cambridge, 1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a sensible overview, which raises the difficulties of periodization, see Lee, C. H., The British Economy since 1700: A Macroeconomic Perspective (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 123Google Scholar. And for the relationship between historiography and contemporary events and moods, see Cannadine, David, “The Past and the Present in the English Industrial Revolution, 1880–1980,” Past and Present, no. 103 (May 1984), pp. 131–72Google Scholar.

13 Anderson, Perry, “Origins of the Present Crisis,” in his Towards Socialism (Ithaca, N.Y., 1966), pp. 1152Google Scholar, originally published in New Left Review in 1964; Seymour, Charles, Electoral Reform in England and Wales (Archon reprint, New Hamden, Conn., 1970), pp. viiviiiGoogle Scholar; Arnstein, Walter, “The Myth of the Triumphant Victorian Middle Classes,” Historian 37, no. 2 (February 1975): 207–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14 See Clark, J. C. D., English Society, 1660–1832 (n. 3 above), and Revolution and Rebellion: State and Society in England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Cambridge, 1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a sensible critique of Clark, see Innes, Joanna, “Jonathan Clark, Social History and England's ‘Ancien Régime,’Past and Present, no. 115 (1985), pp. 165200Google Scholar.

15 See Parry (n. 2 above), a book that may do for nineteenth-century political history what J. C. D. Clark has done for the eighteenth; Mandler, Peter, Aristocratic Government in the Age of Reform: Whigs and Liberals, 1830–1852 (Oxford, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jenkins, T. A., Gladstone, Whiggery and the Liberal Party, 1874–1886 (Oxford, 1988)Google Scholar; and Harling, Philip and Mandler, Peter, “From ‘Fiscal-Military’ State to Laissez-Faire State, 1760–1850,” Journal of British Studies 32, no. 1 (January 1993): 4470CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Also see the important article by Rubinstein, W. D., “Wealth Elites and the Class Structure of Modern Britain,” Past and Present, no. 76 (May 1977), pp. 99126Google Scholar.

16 Calhoun's, CraigThe Question of Class Struggle: Social Foundations of Popular Radicalism during the Industrial Revolution (Chicago, 1982)Google Scholar was an early opening of this perspective and first used the term “populist” to describe lower-class ideology. This was followed by Jones, Gareth Stedman, “Rethinking Chartism,” in his Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History, 1832–1982 (Cambridge, 1983)Google Scholar. And, of course, this perspective has been carried to its fullest expression in Joyce, Patrick, Visions of the People: Industrial England and the Question of Class, 1840–1914 (Cambridge, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Vernon, Politics and the People (n. 2 above); and Briggs, Asa, Chartist Studies (London, 1959)Google Scholar. On Tichborne and other similiar mid-century movements, see McWilliam, Rohan, “Radicalism and Popular Culture: The Tichborne Case and the Politics of Fair Play, 1867–1886,” and Taylor, Miles, “The Old Radicalism and the New: David Urquhart and the Politics of Opposition, 1832–1867,” both in Currents of Radicalism: Popular Radicalism, Organised Labour and Party Politics in Britain, 1850–1914, ed. Biagini, Eugenio and Reid, Alastair (Cambridge, 1991)Google Scholar.

17 See Fraser, Derek, Urban Politics in Victorian England: The Structure of Politics in Victorian Cities (Leicester, 1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Clark, J. C. D., English Society, pp. 394409Google Scholar; O'Gorman, Frank, Voters, Patrons and Parties: The Unreformed Electorate of Hanoverian England, 1734–1832 (Cambridge, 1989)Google Scholar, Campaign Rituals and Ceremonies: The Social Meaning of Elections in England, 1780–1860,” Past and Present, no. 135 (May 1992), pp. 79115Google Scholar; and Vernon, Politics and the People, which essentially extends O'Gorman's analysis to 1867.

18 This is, of course, in contrast to an earlier generation of historians like Foster, John, Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution (London, 1974)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; or Harrison, Brian, Drink and the Victorians (London, 1971)Google Scholar. For a very different interpretation of popular constitionalism that emphasizes its oppositional capacities—and that was also one of its earliest formulations—see Belchem, John, “Republicanism, Popular Constitutionalism and the Radical Platform in Early Nineteenth Century England,” Social History 6, no. 1 (January 1981): 132CrossRefGoogle Scholar. And for an interpretation that emphasizes the diversities in popular constitutionalism, see Epstein, James, “Understanding the Cap of Liberty: Symbolic Practice and Social Conflict in Early Nineteenth Century England,” Past and Present, no. 122 (February 1989), pp. 75118Google Scholar. For the historiographical origins of this recent emphasis on the convergence of Liberalism and working-class politics, see Tholfsen, Trygve, Working Class Radicalism in Mid-Victorian England (London, 1976)Google Scholar. This argument has recently been restated, fused with elements of Vincent's, John pioneering Formation of the Liberal Party, 1857–1868 (London, 1966)Google Scholar, and spiced with more attention to the politics and political language of the relationship in Biagini, Eugenio, Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform: Popular Liberalism in the Age of Gladstone, 1860–1880 (Cambridge, 1992)Google Scholar, which suggests a “charismatic” theory of Gladstone's appeal. For the new lib-labism, see Eugenio Biagini and Alastair Reid, “Currents of Radicalism, 1850–1914,” chap. 1 of Biagini and Reid, eds.

19 For examples of the unproblematic use of sources such as middle-class-owned provincial newspapers to represent the beliefs and assumptions of the plebeians, see Biagini's Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform, the very title of which illustrates the borrowing from Victorian Liberalism, for which it is a panegyric. David Mayfield and Susan Thorne have rightly remarked that by making the cognitive relationship of subject viewing object “the explicit centerpiece of their researches [Stedman Jones and Joyce] render the problem of social relations and social power … meaningless from the very outset (long before any empirical encounter with the archive)”; see their Reply to ‘The Poverty of Protest’ and ‘The Imaginary Discontents,’Social History 18, no. 2 (May 1993): 219–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar, quote on 232. For the eighteenth century, of course, see Thompson, E. P., Customs in Common (New York, 1993), pp. 21, 2426Google Scholar.

20 The reference to Saussure is in Jones's, StedmanLanguages of Class, p. 20Google Scholar. Saussure regarded language as the product of social forces, as a social institution, as a system of signs that do not derive meaning in an arbitrary way but from social forces and facts. See de Saussure, Ferdinand, Course in General Linguistics (New York, 1966), pp. 9, 15, 67–69, 113, 114–15, 122Google Scholar. See also Cullen, Jonathan, Saussure (London, 1976)Google Scholar; and Harris, Roy, Reading Saussure (London, 1987), pp. 6469Google Scholar. For a fierce, but telling, critique of the linguistic turn as it is practiced in this field, see Palmer, Bryan, Descent into Discourse (Philadelphia, 1990)Google Scholar, and Critical Theory, Historical Materialism, and the Ostensible End of Marxism: The Poverty of Theory Revisited,” International Review of Social History 38 (1993): 133–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 The quote is from Joyce, Patrick, “The Imaginary Discontents of Social History: A Note of Response to Mayfield and Thorne and Lawrence and Taylor,” Social History 18, no. 1 (January 1993): 8185CrossRefGoogle Scholar; the remark about times moving on is on 84. It is difficult to find any sustained attribution to a body of linguistic or other theory in Joyce's Visions of the People. And, as Epstein has remarked, it is not clear how seriously to take Joyce's commitment to poststructuralism given the sharp distinction between his assertions and his actual historical practice. See Epstein, James, “The Populist Turn,” Journal of British Studies 32, no. 2 (April 1993): 179–89Google Scholar. But for an assertive though curiously slight claim for postmodernism's superiority over materialism, see Joyce, Patrick, “History and Post-Modernism,” Past and Present, no. 133 (1991), pp. 204–9Google Scholar. For intelligent reflections on this body of scholarship see Mayfield, David and Thorne, Susan, “Social History and Its Discontents: Gareth Stedman Jones and the Politics of Language,” Social History 17, no. 2 (May 1992): 165–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lawrence, Jon and Taylor, Miles, “The Poverty of Protest: Gareth Stedman Jones and the Politics of Language—a Reply,” Social History 18, no. 1 (January 1993): 115CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Joyce replied to the former in “The Imaginary Discontents of Social History: A Note of Response to Mayfield and Thorne and Lawrence and Taylor.” Mayfield and Thorne responded in “Reply to ‘The Poverty of Protest’ and ‘The Imaginary Discontents.’” Vernon, James weighed in with “Who's Afraid of the ‘Linguistic Turn’?Social History 19, no. 1 (January 1994): 8297CrossRefGoogle Scholar, in which a list of postmodernist authorities was provided along with apologies for his and Joyce's rudeness.

22 I have found the following pieces helpful in exploring the question of postmodernism: Lyotard, Jean-François, “Futility in Revolution,” in Toward the Postmodern (Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1993), pp. 87114Google Scholar, and The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis, 1984)Google Scholar; Barthes, Roland, The Rustle of Language (Berkeley, Calif., 1989)Google Scholar; Kellner, Hans, Language and Historical Representation: Getting the Story Crooked (Madison, Wis., 1989)Google Scholar; Ray, William, Literary Meaning: From Phenomenology to Deconstruction (Oxford, 1984)Google Scholar; Hassan, Ihab, The Postmodern Turn (Columbus, Ohio, 1987)Google Scholar; Docherty, Thomas, ed., Postmodernism: A Reader (New York, 1993)Google Scholar; Best, Steven and Kellner, Douglas, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations (Basingstoke, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Spiegel, Gabrielle, “History, Historicism, and the Social Logic of the Text in the Middle Ages,” Speculum 65 (January 1990): 5986CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

23 On this last point, for illustration, see Vernon, , “Who's Afraid of the ‘Linguistic Turn’?” pp. 81–82, 8788Google Scholar.

24 See Spiegel. Joyce, in “The Imaginary Discontents of Social History,” p. 84Google Scholar, has contrasted the absence of grand narratives in nineteenth-century history in comparison to the eighteenth or seventeenth centuries as a sign of the greater theoretical sophistication of those working in the former field. But it should be clear from this article that in the skeletal form of periodizations grand narratives continue to shape even the work of revisionists.

25 Lyotard, , The Postmodern Condition, p. xxivGoogle Scholar; Kellner, p. 304.

26 Lyotard, Jean-François, The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence, 1982–1985 (Minneapolis, 1993), p. 52Google Scholar.

27 See Fraser, Nancy and Nicholson, Linda, “Social Criticism without Philosophy: An Encounter between Feminism and Postmodernism,” in Docherty, , ed., p. 419Google Scholar, who go on to deny that postmodernism should foreswear large historical narratives or macro analysis of social phenomenon.

28 The category of the “social” has been questioned by Jean Baudrillard; see Joyce's two references to it—without much elaboration—in “History and Post-Modernism,” and his “Imaginary Discontents of Social History,” p. 82, although I have been unable to find the work there cited. But there seems to be some confusion on this matter, because Vernon in “Who's Afraid of the ‘Linguistic Turn’?” p. 96, allows the social and social-structural approaches. In its indeterminacy this is a very postmodern position, I suppose. For a critical appreciation of Baudrillard, see Best and Kellner, pp. 114–28.

29 For the difficulties with beginnings and endings, see Kellner, pp. 7, 60–63.

30 Arnold Toynbee was one of the first to use the term “postmodern,” which therefore has good Anglo-Saxon roots, although it has now been captured by the French and slavishly adopted by the Americans. Toynbee referred to post-1875 as the “postmodern” age, characterized by anarchy, turmoil, revolution, and the collapse of the Enlightenment ethos. These were exactly the qualities that Young found in the late Victorian age. Others have pointed to the prefiguring of postmodernism by conservative theorists in the fifties like Daniel Bell, who spoke of a postindustrial society. For these remarks, see Best and Kellner, pp. 6–9; Young (n. 5 above), pp. 157–87. For an excellent critique of postmodernism from the viewpoint of historical materialism as well as the specific reference to architecture, see Harvey, David, The Condition of Postmodernity (Cambridge, 1989), p. 356Google Scholar. also see Ankersmit, F. R., “Historiography and Postmodernism,” History and Theory 28, no. 2 (1989): 146CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

31 See Crafts (n. 12 above), pp. 42, 45–47, 61, 63, 66, 87; essays by Feinstein, C. H. and McCloskey, Donald in The Economic History of Britain since 1700, vol. 1, ed. Floud, Roderick and McCloskey, Donald (Cambridge, 1981)Google Scholar; Harley, C. Knick, “British Industrialisation before 1841: Evidence of Slower Growth during the Industrial Revolution,” Journal of Economic History 42, no. 5 (1982): 267, 276–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Greenberg, Dolores, “Power Patterns of the Industrial Revolution,” American Historical Review 87, no. 2 (1982): 1237–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The growth rate reached 3 percent—the rate recognized to be the signal of an industrializing economy—only in the 1830s and 1840s.

32 On the historiography of the Industrial Revolution and its relationship to contemporary economic moods, see Cannadine (n. 12 above). See also Nef, J. U., The Rise of the British Coal Industry (London, 1932), vol. 1, pt. 2Google Scholar; and Clapham, J. H., An Economic History of Modern Britain: The Early Railway Age, 1820–1850 (Cambridge, 1926)Google Scholar. Pat Hudson has recently reemphasized the importance of regional growth for the idea of an industrial revolution in The Industrial Revolution (London, 1992)Google Scholar. See Berg's, Maxine book The Age of Manufactures (London, 1984)Google Scholar for a good statement of the variegated and uneven process of this phase of economic growth.

33 See Zeitlin, Jonathan and Sabel, Charles, “Historical Alternatives to Mass Production: Politics, Markets and Technology in Nineteenth Century Industrialisation,” Past and Present, no. 108 (August 1985), pp. 133–76Google Scholar. It is worth noting that Toynbee saw the essence of the Industrial Revolution as “the substitution of competition for the medieval regulations which had previously controlled the production and distribution of wealth”; Toynbee, Arnold, The Industrial Revolution (Boston, 1956), p. 84Google Scholar. See Berg, Maxine, “What Difference Did Women's Work Make to the Industrial Revolution?History Workshop Journal 35 (Spring 1993): 2244CrossRefGoogle Scholar, for the key role that female labor played in the growth industries. See also Esteban, Javier Cuenca, “British Textile Prices, 1770–1831,” Economic History Review 48, no. 1 (February 1994): 66105CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

34 Wilson, Charles, England's Apprenticeship, 1603–1763, 2d ed. (London, 1984)Google Scholar, esp. chap. 8; Crouzet, François, “Toward an Export Economy: British Exports during the Industrial Revolution,” Explorations in Economic History 17 (1980): 4893CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Price, Jacob, “What Did Merchants Do? Reflections on British Overseas Trade, 1660–1790,” Journal of Economic History 49, no. 2 (June 1989): 267–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Lee (n. 12 above), pp. 3–23, 271–74; and Rubinstein, W. D., Capitalism, Culture and Decline in Britain, 1750–1990 (London, 1993)Google Scholar; Cain, P. J. and Hopkins, A. G., British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion, 1688–1914 (London, 1992)Google Scholar.

35 See Webster, Anthony, “The Political Economy of Trade Liberalization: The East India Company Charter Act of 1813,” Economic History Review 43, no. 3 (1990): 404–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Howe, A. C., “Free Trade and the City of London c. 1820–1870,” History 77, no. 251 (October 1992): 391410CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 Brewer, John, The Sinews of Power: War, Money, and the English State, 1688–1783 (London, 1988)Google Scholar.

37 Rubinstein, W. D., “The Size and Distribution of the English Middle Classes in 1860,” Historical Research 61, no. 144 (February 1988): 6589CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cain, and Hopkins, , British Imperialism, pp. 53104Google Scholar.

38 See Harling and Mandler (n. 15 above), pp. 46–47, 61–66; Cain, P. J. and Hopkins, A. G., “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas: Part I. The Old Colonial System, 1688–1850,” Economic History Review 39, no. 4 (1986): 501–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Even within the industrial towns of the nineteenth century (as Morris and Koditschek among others have demonstrated), the segmentation and fractionalization within the myriad professional, commercial, and bureaucratic elements that made up the middling groups make any valid generalizations difficult. See Morris, R. J., Class, Sect and Party: The Making of the British Middle Class, Leeds, 1820–1850 (Manchester, 1990)Google Scholar; and Koditschek, Theodore, Class Formation and Urban Industrial Society (Cambridge, 1990)Google Scholar.

39 On the process of the gendering of politics and the way the definition of middleclassness itself is intricately related to politics, see Wahrman, Dror, “‘Middle Class’ Domesticity Goes Public: Gender, Class, and Politics from Queen Caroline to Queen Victoria,” Journal of British Studies 32, no. 4 (October 1993): 396432CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For the most complete statement of this argument, see Davidoff, Leonora and Hall, Catherine, Family Fortunes (London, 1988)Google Scholar; and various articles such as Hall, Catherine, “The Early Formation of Victorian Domestic Ideology,” in Fit Work for Women, ed. Burman, Sandra (London, 1979), pp. 1531Google Scholar. See also Amussen, Susan Dwyer, An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1988)Google Scholar. On the notion of the public and private spaces as part of the emergence of bourgeois politics and identity, see, of course, Habermas, Jürgen, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trans. Burger, Thomas (Cambridge, Mass., 1989)Google Scholar.

40 See Davidoff and Hall; Earle (n. 11 above), pp. 160–74; Clark, Alice, The Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century, 2d ed. (London, 1982)Google Scholar. Fordyce is quoted in Langford, , A Polite and Commercial People (n. 3 above), p. 606Google Scholar.

41 Wahrman, pp. 402–3; Curtis, T. A. and Speck, W. A., “The Societies for the Reformation of Manners: A Case Study in the Theory and Practice of Moral Reform,” Literature and History 3 (March 1976): 4564Google Scholar.

42 On eighteenth-century gender politics, see Langford, , A Polite and Commercial People, pp. 110–11, 112, 602–3, 606–7Google Scholar; Colley (n. 11 above), pp. 237–81. On Nightingale, see Poovey, Mary, Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (Chicago, 1988), pp. 164–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar passim; and Vicinus, Martha and Nergaard, Bea, Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters (Cambridge, Mass., 1990)Google Scholar. On the colonization of philanthropy by women in the mid-nineteenth century, see Prochaska, Frank, Women and Philanthropy in Nineteenth Century England (Oxford, 1980)Google Scholar. On the suffrage and mid-Victorian feminists, see Levine, Philippa, Victorian Feminism, 1850–1900 (Tallahassee, Fla., 1987)Google Scholar, chap. 3. Obviously, the suffrage situation was different in the mid-nineteenth century—in some ways more confusing—with some openings in the local government franchise, but the agitation for a parliamentary franchise—on a class basis—was only just beginning to emerge.

43 See E. P. Thompson (n. 19 above), pp. 1–15, on the way “custom” underlay the plebian political consciousness of the eighteenth century, and pp. 410–11, 442, 451–53, 456, 476–77, 505, 511, 517–18, 528–29, on the chronology of wife sales and rough music. Also see McWilliam (n. 16 above), pp. 44–64.

44 See Joyce's, use of the term in Visions of the People (n. 16 above), pp. 87113Google Scholar. Also see Samuel, Raphael, “The Workshop of the World: Steam Power and Hand Technology in Mid-Victorian Britain,” History Workshop Journal 3 (Spring 1977): 672CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Joyce's Visions of the People is an excellent description of the persistence of the languages of moral economy in mid-nineteenth-century social relations.

45 Taylor, Barbara, ‘‘The men are as bad as the masters …’: Socialism, Feminism and Sexual Antagonism in the London Tailoring Trade in the 1830s,” in Sex and Class in Women's History, ed. Newton, Judith L., Ryan, Mary P., and Walkowitz, Judith (London, 1983)Google Scholar. Although this is not the main point of Claeys's, Gregory work on Owen, Robert, there is much support for this argument in his Machinery, Money and the Millenium: From Moral Economy to Socialism, 1815–1860 (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 189, 192–94Google Scholar, and even more in his Citizens and Saints: Politics and Anti-Politics in Early British Socialism (Cambridge, 1989), esp. pp. 7, 14–15, 25–29, and 329Google Scholar, where the main argument is the continuities between eighteenth-and nineteenth-century social thought. See Joyce, , Visions of the People, p. 4Google Scholar.

46 See Thompson, E. P., “Patrician Society, Plebeian Culture,” Journal of Social History 7, no. 4 (Summer 1974): 382405CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Eighteenth-Century English Society: Class Society without Class,” Social History 3, no. 2 (May 1978): 133–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Levine, David and Wrightson, Keith, The Making of an Industrial Society: Whickham, 1560–1765 (Oxford, 1991), pp. 356–60, 378–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Dunkley, Peter, “Paternalism, the Magistracy and Poor Relief in England, 1795–1834,” International Review of Social History 24, no. 3 (1979): 371–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Mandler (n. 15 above) for the coexistence of paternalist and individualist tendencies in Whig ideology.

47 O'Gorman, , “Campaign Rituals and Ceremonies,” and Voters, Patrons and PartiesGoogle Scholar (both in n. 17 above); Vernon, Politics and the People (n. 2 above).

48 See Seymour (n. 13 above), p. 193, for corruption. Seymour fully recognized the way 1832 changed little in the operation of politics, and his findings have been confirmed by Gash and others. But Seymour's work is marred by the framing of the issue of political reform as one of aristocracy versus middle class. See also, of course, Gash, Norman, Politics in the Age of Peel, 2d ed. (Hassocks, 1976)Google Scholar; Phillips, John A., The Great Reform Bill in the Boroughs: English Electoral Behaviour, 1818–1841 (Oxford, 1992), quote on p. 303Google Scholar, and also his Electoral Behaviour in Unreformed England: Plumpers, Splitters and Straights (Princeton, N.J., 1982), pp. 306–7Google Scholar.

49 Webb, Sydney and Webb, Beatrice, English Local Government from the Revolution to the Municipal Corporations Act: The Parish and the County (London, 1906), pp. 146–72Google Scholar.

50 Vernon, , Politics and the People, pp. 1622Google Scholar; and Webb and Webb. On 1867, see the very important article by Davis, John, “Slums and the Vote, 1867–1890,” Historical Research 64, no. 155 (October 1991): 375–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

51 On the poor law in this period, see Hitchcock, Tim, “Paupers and Preachers: The SPCK and the Parochial Workhouse Movement,” in Stilling the Grumbling Hive: The Response to Social and Economic Problems in England, 1689–1750, ed. Davison, Lee (New York, 1992), pp. 145–47Google Scholar. The major and important difference between this effort and the successful replay a hundred years earlier was that in the early eighteenth century this policy flowed not from the state but from the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and was taken up by parishes. The 1723 workhouse act was an enabling bill, not a prescriptive one. But there were interesting similarities; thus, at both periods the magistrates were suspicious of the workhouse policy, preferring the system of outrelief. For towns, see Corfield, Penelope, The Impact of English Towns, 1700–1800 (Oxford, 1982), pp. 154–56Google Scholar; and Borsay, ed. (n. 11 above).

52 The opening chapter of Macdonagh, Oliver, Early Victorian Government, 1830–1870 (London, 1977), pp. 121Google Scholar, is a good example of the internal inconsistencies in the revolution in government thesis by its leading proponent. See also Bellamy, Christine, Administering Central-Local Relations, 1871–1919 (Manchester, 1988)Google Scholar; Burn, W. L., Age of Equipoise (London, 1964), pp. 167–76Google Scholar; Hart, Jennifer, “The County and Borough Police Act, 1856,” Public Administration 34 (1956): 405–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Steedman, Carolyn, Policing the Victorian Community: The Formation of English Provincial Police Forces, 1856–1880 (London, 1984), pp. 2532Google Scholar.

53 Weeks, Jeffrey, Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 (London, 1981)Google Scholar; Walkowitz, Judith, Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class and the State (Cambridge, 1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Behlmer, George, Child Abuse and Moral Reform in England, 1870–1914 (Palo Alto, Calif., 1982)Google Scholar; Hyam, Ronald, Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience (Manchester, 1991), chaps. 4–6Google Scholar.

Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Historiography, Narrative, and the Nineteenth Century
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and 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 <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Historiography, Narrative, and the Nineteenth Century
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and 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 <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Historiography, Narrative, and the Nineteenth Century
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *