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Urban Culture Notes

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

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1. How did urban society and culture change?
- Cities were centres for cultural development: "cultural bazaars" (P Clark and R A Houston).
- Were growing: by 1803 only 1/3 fams worked in agriculture.
- 'Rage... for amusement' (Lady Mary Holland, 1760s). New leisure facs e.g. 1760s Ldn 4 opera houses, 4 pleasure gardens, 7 major assemblies E.g. New Pleasure Gardens in Dublin, 1748: "a landscape dedicated to the production of pleasure and spectacle" (G A Boyd).
- Growth of music concerts: 20 towns had by mid-1700s. Also 2x weekly and nightly operas in Ldn 1789-90 season, 2x series mod concerts, 3x series ancient music.
- Theatre v pop.Attended by UC and MC.Lower orders also crowded theatres at Drury Lane and Covent Garden (large-scale re-building 1780s and 90s - >3,000 people)."the idealised world of theatre could be used to produce another, public facade" (G A Boyd). E.g. maternity hospital opened, 6 weeks later 'The Distressed Mother' (Ambrose Philip) staged.^wealth, e.g. above play made PS150.
- Urban areas were centres of development for the Enlightenment.
- Focus on politeness. E.g. Laetitia Pilkington wrote of 1720s in Dublin: 'this belle assembly...
of all the learned and polite world'.
- Growth of print culture, reading.
- Increased alcohol consumption - part of trend for entertaining. Esp in Dublin!Claret = then nat drink. Sold best for 2s 6d.A 'middling drinker' could manage 4 bottles with no effects.No man was seriously considered a drinker who could not 'take off his gallon cooly... I believe it may be said with a great deal of truth, that the Irish drink the most of any of his Majesty's subjects with the least injury' (John Bush, after 1764 visit).
- Development of fund-raising. Link to music, e.g. Mercer's Hospital, 1736: concerts.
- Commercial development of period generally focused on towns.
- Increased focus on architecture, furnishing, music, refreshments etc.
- Diff in diff cities: those esp important for trade experienced the developments more sharply than others (e.g. Dublin). E.g. Not in Swansea until 1780s.

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