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Class Notes

History Notes > History of the British Isles V: 1685–1830 Notes

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COLLECTIONS: Notes. CLASS.

1. Who were the upper class?
Distinctive elements of UC life:
- Note - class was not determined solely by wealth. Family, property, possessions, 'breeding', politeness and connections also influenced it. E.g. Scot politician George Dempster said PS30 in London made him better off than Laird of Col in Western Isles.
- Key distinction from MC: their wealth came from land.
- David Cannadine labels 1780-1830 as the birth of the Eng UC because of the spreading of their lifestyle.

2. Who were the working class?
Distinctive elements of WC life:
- In contrast with the MC, WC lit levels remained low. E.g. Mid-C18th, 1/3 men and 2/3 women could not sign last name.
- E P Thompson has argued that the period 1780-1832 saw a significant development for the WC as they became aware of their political oppression (fits in with Marxist school).
- Tended to be more interested in fortune telling and superstition ("deeply embedded in the English countryside" [D&H]). Employment:
- Being on relief was a notable feature of the WC. Paul Langford has argued that "nothing more clearly created 'two nations'" than the relief system.

3. Who were the middle class?
Distinctive elements of MC life:
- Particular focus on manners: "nothing unified the middling orders so much" (Paul Langford).
- Reading was important for the MC. Improved lit levels in contrast with WC. 'Chief entertainment' (Irish theologian Philip Skelton, 1780s). Growth of libraries e.g. Bristol Library Soc (130 members) 1773. Enabled them to get taste of aristocracy.
- Linked to this was a rise in publishing, e.g. est. of literary reviews like Critical Rev. "a peculiarly characteristic expression of the MC England of their day" (Langford).
- Typical MC man: James Luckcock of B'ham.Born in 'humble life' (self-quoted).Began career in buckle making and worked up jewellery ind to make PS400/year. Started own business but had to sell on retirement.

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Offered lessons in writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, geography and drawing.Lived in a suburb of Edgbaston.Family v important to him (motivation in business).Wife helped in business when nec. Her support was invaluable.Joining of societies - way to partake in society.More assoc with rationality and common sense (D&H argue roots of Victorian mindframe).
- Brewer estimates earned PS50-PS400 pa (however defining 'MC' was more complicated than this).
- It is hard to define exactly who the MC was. Basically, it can be said that they had to be able to afford more services (e.g. medicine) than the basic artisan or peasant (Langford).
- It is also important to remember that the MC was not a highly unified group - perhaps the least of all three classes. "The stratification of the MC was almost infinite" (Langford). E.g. country apothecary v society doctor.

4. Did the period see the emergence of the MC?
YES Paul Langford calls this "the most striking of developments" in the period. Have been overlooked by historians - "obliterates their overwhelming importance".

NO Varied geographically: London was "the hub of polite transformation" (Langford).

Contemporaries noticed this development, e.g. Scot philosopher John Millar. James Nelson categorised Brit soc into Nobility, Gentry (UC), mercantile, mechanics (MC) and peasantry (WC) in 1753.

There were divisions within the MC. E.g. differences between town and country, loaners and debtors. However, D&H stress the importance of "an imperative moral code" that tied them together.

Changes to schooling suggest yes. Focus shifted: subjects like classics less valuable, more emph on lit and book-keeping.

Dror Wahrman argues that the rise of

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