Thursday, 26 January 2012

Rebellion in Canada: 1837-1885

In less than fifty years Canada experienced six major rebellions: in Lower and Upper Canada in late 1837 and 1838, the Fenian rebellions of 1866 and 1870 and Louis Riel’s resistance at Red River in 1869-1870 and his rebellion fifteen years later.

This book originated in my trilogy of studies on colonial rebellion and develops material from those books on rebellion in Canada. This allows me to examine the significance of rebellion in the development of the Canadian state as it evolved from a colonial organisation through responsible government and finally to its continental federal form after Confederation in 1867.
Chapter 1 examines the development of the two Canadas between the end of French Canada in 1760 and the turn of the century. Chapter 2 considers the economic, social, political, ideological and cultural tensions that evolved from the 1790s and the largely unsuccessful attempts by the colonial state and politicians in London to find acceptable and sustainable solutions to populist demands for greater autonomy. Chapter 3 looks in detail at the rebellions in 1837 and 1838 and at their immediate aftermath. Chapter 4 examines the ways in which Canadian politics developed in the newly united Province of Canada in the years between 1841 and the creation of Confederation in 1867. Chapter 5 considers at the ways in which Irish nationalism maintained a strong political presence in the United States and Canada from the beginning of the nineteenth century and the emergence of the Fenian Brotherhood in New York in 1858. The political impact of this movement was both enhanced and restricted by the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865 yet the Fenians emerged in April 1865 as a powerful, if increasingly divided, force with concrete plans for the liberation of Ireland. Chapter 6 explores in detail at the three Irish-American Fenian incursions into Canada in 1866, 1870 and briefly and debatably in 1871, the impact that they had on Canadian and American politics and how this led to changes in Irish nationalism in the 1870s. Chapters 7 and 8 extend the story geographically beyond Quebec and Ontario across the continent to the unchartered and largely unsettled prairies of the North-West and considers the two rebellions associated with Louis Riel.

Although much of the book has already been drafted, the need for further research means that the book will not be available on Amazon Kindle until early 2013.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Sex, Work and Politics: Women in Britain, 1830-1918

The book focuses on the key areas necessary to explain the development of women’s role in nineteenth and early-twentieth century British society and develops themes explored in the Nineteenth Century British Society series.

Sex. Work and Politics: Women in Britain, 1830-1918

The first chapter considers the relationship between different approaches that have evolved to explain the role of women in history. This is followed by a chapter that looks at the ways in which women were represented in the nineteenth century in terms of the female body, sexuality and the notion of ‘separate spheres’. Chapter 3 explores the relationship between women and work and how that relationship developed. Although women’s suffrage has had a symbolic importance for generations of feminists, the campaign for the vote has obscured the broader agitations for women’s rights during the nineteenth century and was, in terms of its impact before 1914, far less significant. Before the 1880s, the focus was not on winning the vote and the demand for parliamentary suffrage was only one of a range of campaigns. These are explored in Chapter 4.
The following two chapters look at the ways in which women actively sought access to the public sphere through political activity and demands for suffrage reform. Women’s interest in securing access to political rights was not limited to the campaign for parliamentary suffrage. Women, from working- and middle-classes were involved in political protest such as the Chartist movement and in campaigns against slavery and the Corn Laws. The growing powers given to various levels of local government also attracted their keen interest and in the arena of local party politics women were to play a prominent role as early as the 1870s.
It was not until the first decade of the twentieth century that the suffrage movement achieved widespread national recognition largely through the activities of the militant Suffragettes. The nature of the suffrage campaign is considered in Chapter 7 while reactions to this from anti-suffragists, political parties and different social groups form the core of Chapter 8. The impact of the First World War on women generally and the suffrage campaign in particular is discussed in Chapter 9. The book ends with an examination of the notion of ‘borderlands’ as a conceptual framework for discussing women in nineteenth century Britain and the ways in which their personal, ideological, economic, legal and political status developed and changed.

This book will be published in print media in the middle of 2012 and this will shortly be followed by a Kindle version.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

What was popular culture in 1830?

In 1830, popular culture was public, robust and gregarious, largely masculine and involved spectacle and gambling with an undercurrent of disorder and physical violence. The distinction between high and popular culture, between opera and drama on the one hand and spectacle, circus and showmanship on the other had broken down: Shakespeare, melodrama and performing animals not merely co-existed but intermingled.

The eighteenth century pleasure fairs had played a major role in this process and many major actors started their careers in their theatrical booths. English theatre and opera was produced not only for the cultivated and informed but for mass audiences for whom melodrama, lavish stage sets and live animals were essential and whom managers and actors bored at their peril. Expanding audiences funded the extensive rebuilding of Covent Garden, Drury Lane and Sadler’s Wells as well as theatres outside the West End and entrepreneurs gave melodrama a legitimate place on the stage as well as developing the modern pantomime. Provincial theatres followed the example of London. [1] By 1830, however, there had been some decline in theatre going among the provincial bourgeoisie, the result as much of the rougher audiences frightening them away as the impact of evangelicalism.

Developments in sport showed the same commercialism and capacity to survive in the face of the hostility of authority. [2] Shooting and hunting were the only sports to remain exclusively elitist. Until 1831 shooting was legally restricted to owners of land worth more than £100 and the Games Laws ensured that poaching was severely punished. [3] While shooting demonstrated a horizontal cleavage in rural society, foxhunting had a far greater community interest. Though dominated by the landed aristocracy and country gentlemen, it was open to urban gentry and professionals and the poorer sections of the community followed the spectacle on foot. Some hunts were the property of single great landowners but were expensive to maintain and subscription hunts became more common: there were 69 packs of hounds in Britain in 1812, 91 by 1825. [4]

Horseracing was the sport of both the rich and poor. It could not maintain its exclusiveness though different prices charged for the stands, the paddocks and the ordinary enclosures were as much an expression of social hierarchy as different class of railway travel. Horseracing combined two obsessions: the love of horses and gambling. Professional bookmakers appeared around 1800; by 1815, the ‘classic’ races, the Derby, the Oaks, the One Thousand and Two Thousand Guineas, the St Leger and the Ascot Gold Cup, were all established and by 1837, there were 150 places in Britain where race meetings were held. [5] By 1850, off-course betting had been established, further broadening participation.[6]

Pugilism or prize fighting began as a sport of the labouring population and attracted aristocratic patronage by 1800. Like horseracing it was increasingly commercialised and its champions such as Tom Spring, [7] Tom Crib and Dutch Sam were full-time professionals. Both flourished as industries with their own specialist newspapers yet they were also evocative of an older, perhaps imaginary, culture where sporting squires and labourers rubbed shoulders in a common appreciation of animals and physical prowess. Upper-class support for prize fighting waned after 1830 but it retained its popularity among the working population and its real decline did not occur until after 1860.[8] Other sports like cricket, rowing and pedestrianism had similar characteristics to horse-racing and prize fighting.[9] They became more organised and professional, more dependent on attracting spectators and accompanied by extensive gambling. Cricket originated as an activity of the labouring population in southern England and was then take up by the aristocratic elite.[10] Pedestrianism and rowing also began as popular sports before moving up the social scale late in the nineteenth century. [11]

Many traditional customs continued until well after 1850. There is evidence for the large unchanged New Year mumming festivals in northern England until the 1870s. Guy Fawkes’ Night was still celebrated despite attempts by various authorities to suppress bonfires and the burning of effigies. [12] Changes to traditional customs were not easily enforced even in areas, like Lancashire, where factory discipline was most firmly established. The Lancashire Wakes Weeks, traditionally the most important event of the recreational year, were forced on mill-owners rather than freely given. [13] It was not simply employers who attacked wakes and fairs. Moral reformers, the magistracy, and later the police recognised that these acted as a focus for criminal activity, could potentially lead to violence and threatened public order. That they continued until the late-nineteenth century was due not to lack of opposition but to disagreement about what action to take.

By 1830, a clear distinction was apparent between the nature of much popular recreation and the dominant intellectual movements of the day, rational liberalism and evangelicalism with their argument for a self-conscious and moralistic cultivation of respectability. This produced much of the impetus for reform. From the formation of the Proclamation Society in 1787, the campaign for reform gathered momentum. By the 1830s, there were societies for preventing cruelty to animals, the Lord’s Day Observance Society founded in 1831 and the British and Foreign Temperance Society. Parliamentary reform in 1832 gave such societies slightly more influence over Parliament and as the police force extended they gained the means to enforce legislation. Betting was an early and obvious target for reform but lotteries were not made illegal until 1823 and 1825 and further measures to discourage gambling had to wait until the 1840s and 1850s. [14] Reform was not achieved easily, quickly or completely. Neither was it the prerogative, nor was it dictated by the interests, of any one social group. It traversed class boundaries, dividing all groups, especially the working-classes, internally.[15]


[1] Borsay, Peter, The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town 1660-1770, (Oxford University Press), 1991, pp. 117-149.

[2] Ibid, Borsay, Peter, The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town 1660-1770, pp. 173-196.

[3] Munsche, P. B., Gentlemen and poachers: the English game laws 1671-1831, (Cambridge University Press), 1981.

[4] On this issue see Carr, Raymond, English Fox Hunting: A History, (Weidenfeld), 1976, and Itzkowitz, David C., Peculiar privilege: a social history of English foxhunting, 1753-1885, (Harvester Press), 1977.

[5] Church, Michael, The Derby Stakes: the complete history 1780-2006, (Raceform Ltd), 2006, Seth-Smith, Michael, and Mortimer, Roger, Derby 200: the official story of the blue riband of the turf, (Guinness Superlatives), 1979, Tolson, John, and Vamplew, Wray, ‘Facilitation Not Revolution: Railways and British Flat Racing 1830-1914’, Sport in History, Vol. 23, (2003), pp. 89-106, and Huggins, Mike Flat racing and British society, 1790-1914: a social and economic history, (Cass), 2000.

[6] See, Clapson, Mark, A bit of a flutter: popular gambling in England, c.1820-1961, (Manchester University Press), 1992.

[7] Hurley, Jon, Tom Spring: bare-knuckle Champion of All England, (Stadia), 2007.

[8] See, Anderson, Jack, ‘The Legal Response to Prize Fighting in Nineteenth Century England and America’, Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, Vol. 57, (2006), pp. 265-287, and Sheard, K. G., ‘“Brutal and degrading”: the medical profession and boxing, 1838-1984’, International Journal of the History of Sport, Vol. 15, (3), (1998), pp. 74-102.

[9] Wigglesworth, Neil, A social history of English rowing, (Routledge), 1992, pp. 1-91, and Halladay, Eric, Rowing in England: a social history: the amateur debate, (Manchester University Press), 1990

[10] See Underdown, David, ‘The History of Cricket’, History Compass, Vol. 4, (1), (2006), pp. 43-53, and Birley, Derek, A Social History of English Cricket, (Aurum Press), 1999.

[11] Lile, Emma, ‘Professional Pedestrianism in South Wales during the Nineteenth Century’, The Sports Historian, Vol. 20, (2000), pp. 94-105.

[12] Sharpe, J.A., Remember, remember the fifth of November: Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot, (Profile), 2005, looks at remembrance.

[13] Poole, Robert, ‘Lancashire wakes week’, History Today, Vol. 34, (8), (1984), pp. 22-29.

[14] Munting, R., ‘Social opposition to gambling in Britain: an historical overview’, International Journal of the History of Sport, Vol. 10, (1993), pp. 295-312, Raven, James, ‘The abolition of the English state lotteries’, Historical Journal, Vol. 34, (1991), 371-389, and Woodhall, Robert, ‘The British state lotteries’, History Today, Vol. 14, (7), (1964), pp. 497-504.

[15] Itzkowitz, David C., ‘Victorian bookmakers and their customers’, Victorian Studies, Vol. 32, (1988), pp. 7-30.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Attacking cultural experience

The late-eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century saw two major changes in the cultural experience of English society. [1] First, there was erosion of the older popular culture as a result of the withdrawal of patronage by the governing elite, the gradual dismantling of the agrarian social and economic frameworks that gave it justification by widespread industrialisation and the attacks on its public expression by a combination of religious evangelicalism and a secular desire to promote work discipline. By contrast, secondly, a more commercial culture developed, entrepreneurial, market-led and largely urban and bourgeois. This involved modification of both the content and transmission of high culture and, in the nineteenth century, the promotion of popular cultural products like circuses, prize and cock-fights for profit. Cultural experiences, like economic and social ones, were adaptable.

The attack on popular culture was part of the assault on the life-styles and recreations of the labouring population that had been gathering pace since the sixteenth century. [2] It had two linked thrusts: a religious belief that popular culture was profane, irreligious and immoral and a secular concern that it was detrimental to economic efficiency and public order. The desire to turn people into sober, virtuous and godly citizens motivated by an interest in work and social discipline is generally held to have been resolved by the mid-Victorian turn to recreation and sport, ‘justifying God to the people’ through the ‘soft-hearted benevolence’ of cricket, cycling and football.

image

Bair-baiting in the seventeenth century: engraving, 1796

However, Dominic Erdozain argues that the problem of pleasure was inflamed by the ecclesiastical remedy. Just as the early Victorians came to identify sin with ‘vice’, their successors came to associate salvation with an increasingly social and physical sense of ‘virtue’. The problem of overdrawn boundaries between church and world gave way to a new and subtle confusion of gospel and culture resulting in a sense of cultural crisis, a challenge to the hegemony that called for moral regeneration and stricter disciplining of the lives of the labouring population. Historians have praised the mood of engagement and adaptation but the costs were profound. Sport came as an invigorating tonic but it could neither sustain its new patrons nor fulfil their missionary task. Instead, it became the perfect vehicle for that humanistic, ‘unmystical’ morality that defines the secularity of the twentieth century. [3]

Attacks on popular culture after 1830 can therefore be seen as a response to pressures on existing forms of social control, of demographic and urban growth and the consequent erosion of paternalism. Evangelicalism played a major role in this critique of popular culture and succeeded in obtaining some agreement across the governing elite to its central moral tenets through groups such as the Society for the Reformation of Manners and the Society for the Suppression of Vice. [4] Its views had their greatest success with the mercantile, commercial and professional groups, who looked with both economic and social distaste at the irrational and sinful nature of much popular culture and were appalled by the gratuitous cruelty to animals this involved. Methodism had greater impact on the working population and on artisans and small shopkeepers through its incessant attacks on the worldliness and sensuality of popular culture. Distaste for present pleasures was also a characteristics of secular radicalism. For articulate radicals, popular culture was too closely linked to the paternalistic social order. It offended their emphasis on reason and their stress on moral and intellectual self-improvement; books, education and debating rather than bear baiting, races and circuses. Secular radicals, no less than evangelicals, sought to redeem the working population.

This ideological attack was combined with what Thomas Carlyle’s ‘abdication on the part of the governors’. The aristocracy and gentry gradually withdrew from participation in popular culture and no longer championed it against reformers. Society was becoming less face-to-face, except on special occasions, with social groups confined to their own cultural worlds. The layout of country houses and gardens demonstrated a move towards domestic privacy. This was more than just symbolic and reflected a much broader ‘cutting-off’ of the lives of aristocracy and gentry from the lives of the labouring population. Rural sports, customary holidays and apprenticeship rituals came to be seen not as socially desirable but as wasteful distractions from work and threats to social order.


[1] Easton, S., Howkins, A., Laing, S., Merrick L., and Walker, H., Disorder and Discipline: Popular Culture from 1550 to the Present, (Temple Smith), 1988, and Borsay, Peter, A History of Leisure: The British Experience since 1500, (Palgrave), 2006, are good general surveys. Golby J. M., and Purdue, A.,W., The Civilization of the Crowd, (Batsford), 1984, Malcolmson, R.,W., Popular Recreation in English Society 1700-1850, (Cambridge University Press), 1973, Cunningham, H., Leisure in the Industrial Revolution, (Allen and Unwin), 1980, provide perspectives on the issue of custom and leisure.   Bailey, P., Leisure and Class in Victorian England: rational recreation and the contest for control 1830-1885, (Routledge), 1978, and Walvin, James, Leisure and Society 1830-1950, (Longman), 1979, take the arguments forward into the late-nineteenth century. Holt, R., Sport and the British: A Modern History, (Oxford University Press), 1989, and Tranter, N., Sport, Economy and Society in Britain, 1750-1914, (Cambridge University Press), 1998, are the best introduction to this area of leisure.

[2] Ibid, Brown Richard, Society and Economy in Modern Britain 1700-1850, pp. 435-440.

[3] On this issue see, Erdozain, Dominic, The Problem of Pleasure: Sport, Recreation and the Crisis of Victorian Religion, (Boydell Press), 2010.

[4] See, Harrison, Brian, ‘Religion and recreation in nineteenth-century England’, Past & Present, Vol. 38, (1967), pp. 98-125.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Society under Pressure: Britain 1830-1914

Nineteenth Century British Society is a series of five e-books that seek to explain the major social developments that occurred during the nineteenth and early-twentieth century. It extends the ideas and chronological scope that I originally put forward in my studies of Britain’s social and economic development originally published in 1987, 1991 and 1992.[1] It also develops information contained in my blog: http://richardjohnbr.wordpress.com/. Nineteenth Century British Society consists of five volumes:

Volume 1: Economy, Population and Transport

Volume 2: Work, Health and Poverty

Volume 3: Education, Crime and Leisure

Volume 4: Class

Volume 5: Religion and Government

As a cheaper alternative for those who do not wish to buy the series as separate e-books, this volume brings together the five volumes into a single composite volume enabling readers to purchase a single e-book. The opening chapters provide the economic context for the book especially the character of economic change and continuity. This is followed by three chapters that consider demographic, agricultural and industrial and communication developments during the nineteenth century. The next tranche of chapters examine the social problems created by changes in towns, the public’s health, housing, poverty, the nature of work, education and crime and leisure and the ways in which government sought to regulate these activities. Chapter 17 draws on these chapters and provides an overview of the nature of government in the nineteenth and early-twentieth century as it grappled with the practicalities of social reform. Religion is the subject of Chapters 18 and 19 while Chapters 20-23 consider the nature of class in the nineteenth century. The book ends with a chapter on the end of the nineteenth century.

Religion and Government published

The fifth and final volume of Nineteenth Century British Society has now been published on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Religion-Government-Nineteenth-Century-ebook/dp/B006TI5OO4/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1325717478&sr=1-2

This volume looks at the effects that economic changes had on people’s attitude to religion and how the character of government underwent a revolution in organisation and ideology. It explores the pressures experienced by Anglicanism, Nonconformity and Roman Catholicism in the decades leading up to the Religious Census of 1851 and particularly the state of working-class religious attitudes. It then examines the extent to which religion was in decline after 1851 and asks whether there was a ‘crisis of faith’. Finally, the nature of government and especially how and why it responded to pressures for a national approach to the development of social reform with the shift from a laissez faire approach to one in which there was a more collectivist response.

The book is divided into three chapters:

  1. Churches under pressure

  2. Religion in Decline?

  3. Government

Further Reading identifies the most valuable books on these subjects while the detailed notes provide a guide for further research