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Nineteenth century history and culture
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Nineteenth century history and culture


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  • 1. Nineteenth Century History and Culture
  • 2. England in 1800
    • There were 10-12 million people in England, 1 million in London alone.
    • Other cities rose in importance as industrial or manufacturing cities: Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester.
    • Mining (coal) and textile manufacturing were the basis of the English economy.
  • 3.
    • Coal is exported via London & Liverpool, while cotton from India and the U.S. and wool from Australia are imported.
    • Shipyards thus were very important to the English economy.
    • The population shifts, therefore, to cities after 1800, replacing “cottage industries” put out of business by factories.
  • 4.
    • 75% of the population was, in 1800, functionally illiterate.
    • An overabundance of people for factory work creates a domestic service class: maids, butlers, cooks, nannies, stable workers.
    • They come very, very cheap, sometimes earning only room and board from the rising middle class.
  • 5.
    • Sons of upper class gentlemen could follow in the footsteps of their fathers.
    • Servants, though, were often “economic slaves,” trapped in the jobs they had in order to survive, because there were so many to replace them should they leave.
  • 6.
    • Lower classes were encouraged to drink:
    • The pub profession expands with upper and middle class assumption that a drunk lower class is safe.
    • Overpopulation creates a feeling of helplessness in the lower classes, and fear in the upper classes.
  • 7.
    • Therefore, upper and upper middle classes feared change – wanted to maintain the status quo.
    • They feared organization: mobs, unionizing.
    • The French Revolution, in part, is responsible for a great deal of upper class anxiety at this time – if it could happen there, people believed, it could happen here too.
  • 8.
    • Poorhouses in the 19 th century were what homeless shelters are today.
    • Orphans abounded during the 19 th century; children were often “sold” to workhouses to help support their families.
    • There was no institutional mechanism for recovering from financial or social losses.
  • 9. Politics in the 19 th Century
    • Tories represented Church of England loyalists, land owners, and those with inherited wealth and traceable families
    • They had roots in tradition, aristocracy: they are the party of no change.
    • Whigs were recent property owners, entrepreneurs, merchants: the middle class: the party of development and progress.
  • 10.
    • Overpopulation also created slum conditions in the cities, which in turn caused
    • -- poor sanitation
    • -- poor hygiene
    • -- unprotected urban water supplies
    • -- health epidemics
    • All of this results in a greatly divided society: the haves, and the have-nots.
  • 11. Women and the 19 th Century
    • The nineteenth century also had a strict sense of morality and social propriety.
    • Although this was a highly sexually active society, this fact was kept behind closed doors, not discussed publicly.
    • A woman’s virginity was her most important asset – to lose it was to lose one’s character and reputation.
  • 12. Progress for Women
    • The Infants Custody Act of 1839 allowed women to retain custody of their children in case of separation
    • 1870-1908 several Married Women’s Property Acts were passed allowing women some legal rights to own and bequeath property in their own right.
    • There were women who attended university, and earned higher degrees.
  • 13. The “Governess” Problem
    • Most women, however, still inhabited separate spheres from their husbands – upper class women did not work outside of the home, and their primary job, still, was to marry well.
    • Women of the merchant and domestic servant classes could work to support themselves.
  • 14.
    • But what of women of “gentle birth” – good family names, but no money to speak of?
    • The only “respectable” means of support for such women was to become a governess or ladies’ companion, if they didn’t marry.
  • 15.
    • Thus they were almost classless: unable to associate with those beneath them, but too low to associate with their social equals by education and birth.
    • However, most women who didn’t marry had little status, and few opportunities in 19 th century society.