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Mass commodity culture and identity: the Morning Chronicle and Irish migrants in a nineteenth-century Welsh industrial town

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2008

PAUL O'LEARY
Affiliation:
Department of History and Welsh History, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DY

Abstract

The ‘Labour and the Poor’ investigations of the Morning Chronicle newspaper, which charted social conditions in towns outside London in 1849–51, subjected Irish migrants in Britain to a hostile journalistic gaze. In the case of the iron-manufacturing town of Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales, the minority Irish ethnic identity was defined by observers in terms of exclusion from an emerging mass commodity culture and in opposition to the native working class. This early investigative journalism deployed some conventions of the contemporary novel that were familiar to its mainly middle-class readership to root social identities in material conditions.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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References

1 See Swift, Roger, ‘Historians and the Irish: recent writings on the Irish in nineteenth-century Britain’, in MacRaild, Donald M. (ed.), The Great Famine and Beyond: Irish Migrants in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Dublin, 2000), 139Google Scholar; MacRaild, Donald M., Irish Migrants in Modern Britain, 1750–1922 (London, 1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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9 Jones, Mid-Victorian Wales, 11. The competition for this designation in the mid-nineteenth century is strong. See Phillips, Thomas, Wales: The Language, Social Condition, Moral Character, and Religious Opinions of the People Considered in their Relation to Education (London, 1849)Google Scholar; Jones, Evan, Facts, Figures and Statements in Illustration of the Dissent and Morality of Wales (London, 1849)Google Scholar.

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11 See, for example, the rector's lecture in Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 29 Dec. 1849.

12 Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 1 Dec. 1849.

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22 O'Leary, Immigration and Integration, 57–8, 65.

23 Ibid., 70–2.

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26 Ginswick (ed.), Labour and the Poor, vol. III, 64.

27 Ibid., 64–8.

28 Ibid., 26.

29 This was not, in fact, the case. See O'Leary, Paul, ‘Skill and the workplace in an industrial economy: the Irish in south Wales’, in Belchem, John and Tenfelde, Klaus (eds.), Polish and Irish Migration in Comparative Perspective (Essen, 2003), 5768Google Scholar.

30 Ginswick (ed.), Labour and the Poor, vol. III, 64.

31 Humphreys, Travels into the Poor Man's Country, 48.

32 Ginswick (ed.), Labour and the Poor, vol. III, 65.

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35 Marx, Karl, Capital, vol. I (London, 1976)Google Scholar, 163ff. For the voluminous literature on consumerism and consumer culture, see Brewer, John and Porter, Roy (eds.), Consumption and the World of Goods (London, 1993)Google Scholar; Berg, Maxine and Clifford, Helen (eds.), Consumers and Luxury: Consumer Culture in Europe, 1650–1850 (Manchester, 1999)Google Scholar; Trentmann, Frank (ed.), The Making of the Consumer: Knowledge, Power, and Identity in the Modern World (Oxford, 2005)Google Scholar.

36 Ginswick (ed.), Labour and the Poor, vol. III, 65.

37 Ibid., 64–5.

38 Ibid.

39 Ginswick (ed.), Labour and the Poor, vol. III, 66.

40 Lindner, Christoph, Fictions of Commodity Culture: From the Victorian to the Postmodern (Ashgate, 2003), especially chs. 1 and 2Google Scholar; Miller, A.H., Novels behind Glass: Commodity Culture and Victorian Narrative (Cambridge, 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

41 Ginswick (ed.), Labour and the Poor, vol. III, 52–4.

42 Ibid., 50.

43 Richards, Thomas, The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851–1914 (London, 1991), 1718Google Scholar; Miller, Novels behind Glass, ch. 2. Consumerism is analysed only after 1870 in Kidd, A. and Nicholls, D. (eds.), Gender, Civic Culture and Consumerism: Middle-Class Identity in Britain, 1800–1940 (Manchester, 1999)Google Scholar.

44 Richards, Commodity Culture, 18–20; and the critique in Church, Roy, ‘Advertising consumer goods in nineteenth-century Britain’, Economic History Review, 53 (2000), esp. 629–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a more famous ‘bazaar’, Gurney, Peter J., ‘“The sublime of the bazaar”: a moment in the making of a consumer culture in mid-nineteenth century England’, Journal of Social History, 40 (2006), 385405CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

45 Ginswick (ed.), Labour and the Poor, vol. III, 17.

46 Kenrick, ‘The statistics of Merthyr Tydvil’, 14–21.

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48 Ibid., 68.

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50 MacRaild, ‘Irish immigration’, 78–81.

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