Social Classes and Social Relations in Britain, 1850–1914

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He distinguishes among the wealth-holding, political power, and cultural influence of the ruling class; he summarizes the recent literature on changes in skills and incomes of different groups within the working classes; and he divides the debate on social relations into distinct emphases on coercion, control and consent. Select Parent Grandparent Teacher Kid at heart.

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Thank you. Your review has been submitted and will appear here shortly. Extra Content. Table of Contents List of tables; Acknowledgment; Note on references; 1. Introduction; 2. Diversity of experience within the working population led to diversity of responses. See also, Briggs, A. Cole , rev. Other studies include Prothero, I. Reid, Alastair J. Benson, J.

Social classes and social relations in Britain 1850-1914

McKibbin, R. Perkin, H.

UK now has seven social classes

Tauchnitz , Tauchnitz , , p. During much of the nineteenth century, the lower middle classes, particularly those located in working-class districts, rallied to popular causes. A great part of the power of the revolutions of stemmed from the successful union of the lower middle classes and the working classes.

The lower middle classes had played a leading role in the revolutionary struggles up to and continued to serve as revolutionary fuel into the s. Yet in the second half of the long nineteenth century the alliance between the lower middle classes and the working classes became more problematic where it did not collapse altogether.

The growth of class-conscious socialist and trade union movements undermined the petite bourgeoisie 's sense of belonging to an encompassing popular class, a feeling that had provided cross-class unity in Grocery chains and catalog shopping were deadly threats to the lower middle classes, yet their working-class neighbors became prime customers of these retail innovations. Consumer cooperatives, a popular tool of the socialist movement, particularly alienated the lower middle classes as did the spread of trade unionism, which threatened to raise the wages of the helpers who gave the lower middle-class family a little extra time to take care of family needs.

Meanwhile a new social stratum of formally educated professional men and women was emerging. Despite the rhetoric of laissez-faire, governmental services increased greatly during the period. Between and , railways expanded along with the railway workforce, and postal services increased rapidly as did the number of postal workers. Everywhere the number of teachers grew apace and secretaries, administrators, and accountants all were in high demand. The number of those employed in banking, health, entertainment, and insurance also grew.

Were these service workers and urban professionals a new middle class or a white-collar working class?

Unlike the working classes, both artisans and factory workers, these workers did not work with their hands and were far more likely to be women. While many artisans earned more than clericals, the white-collar workers were required to dress for work and they possessed more formal education than the most skilled workers. At a time when industrial labor was becoming more masculine, white-collar work was feminizing. Emerging from technical training schools, women were hired as secretaries and typists and female lay teachers often replaced nuns in teaching young women in a still largely sex-segregated educational system in which they routinely received lower wages than their male counterparts.

White-collar identities varied according to political or social circumstances. In some countries such as France, teachers, civil service workers, and other groups formed unions and mobilized their constituents into popular movements. In Germany though, they were more likely to remain separate from the working classes and to identify themselves with a broadly construed middle group, the Mittelstand.

Even putting service workers and professionals aside, the working classes themselves were a diverse group that included skilled artisans, factory workers, domestic servants, and sweatshop tenement labor. Over the course of the century the number of factory workers increased considerably, the number of artisans and domestic servants declined, while sweatshop labor first expanded and then declined.

In manufacturing, preindustrial forms of labor slowly gave way to factory and millwork.

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Preindustrial work had its own distinctive characteristics. It was dispersed over town and country and was organized along family lines. Preindustrial workers controlled the pace and rhythm of their own work and often possessed a monopoly of knowledge about their job. They often had their own internal job hierarchy and their own distinctive occupational identity.

Oftentimes, preindustrial workers lived close together to fellows who performed the same job. Skilled artisans, such as puddlers makers of wrought iron or glassblowers, tended to live in their own communities within the city or village; they often had a shared leisure life based on common work and residence patterns. Glassworkers retained their own sense of identity when thrown together with other groups of workers. These workers were capable of considerable solidarity, but waves of innovation, such as the mechanization that swept the glass industry in the s, were capable of reducing them to relative penury.

In early-nineteenth-century cities, the largest groups of workers were usually domestic servants who catered to the needs of upper- and middle-class families. Whether they resided with a wealthy family or performed cleaning services for a middle-class family, servants were under the close scrutiny of their employers, and this limited their ability to act independently, either personally or collectively. Personal contact might result in lifelong friendships between older servants and the wealthy children they had raised.

But it was also a great source of personal pettiness. One English domestic servant recounted how all the silverware used in her servants' quarter was engraved with the message "Stolen from the household of" followed by the family crest. Despite its relative security, higher wages, and contact with the upper classes, indeed perhaps because of its interclass contact, first men and later women fled domestic service for factory and secretarial work as it became available, and the proportion of the population in domestic service slowly declined.

The world of the newly emerging industrial workers was quite different from that of domestic service. They inhabited an urban world. The factory or mill was almost always sex segregated and, as the century wore on, males increasingly dominated the workplace; sons might expect to find work in the same factory as their father, but they seldom were trained by their parents. Industrial workers were supervised outside the traditional job hierarchies, and formally educated supervisors or engineers increasingly controlled their labor. Industrial workers who labored in the same factories did not tend to live together in the city but lived in new working-class sections of the city or the suburbs where they lived next to other workers but not necessarily workmates.

In this environment it became increasingly easy for workers to identify themselves less with a specific occupation and more with the general working class.


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The nineteenth century also witnessed the growth of homework and sweatshop labor, a growth disproportionately concentrated in great cities. Erratic and low-paid male labor, such as dock labor, forced wives and children to accept the miserable conditions, long hours, and low wages that characterized many portions of the garment trades, particularly those engaged in homework or in small shops.

The spread of piecework and putting out extended many of the most scandalous characteristics of the early Industrial Revolution into the second half of the nineteenth century. Toward the end of the century, however, waves of political reform imposed new restrictions on poorly paid laborers, and the size of this labor force declined. The spread of socialism and trade unions among male workers—artisanal, highly skilled, and factory workers—was one of the most powerful nineteenth-century political trends.

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Although many of the largest factories remained peripheral to the labor movement until the interwar years, class-consciousness created a powerful sense of identity among proletarians. While middle-class intellectuals such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had elaborated key doctrines of the labor movement, workers rallied behind banners that featured bare-chested manual laborers; read newspapers that announced their proletarian allegiance; joined cooperatives and lyceums that explicitly appealed to workers; and, particularly in the Scan-dinavian and Germanic worlds, formed bicycling societies, temperance societies, and chess clubs open only to workers.

The old camaraderie between proletarians and the petite bourgeoisie faltered when faced with such exclusion. Many male teachers and salesmen avoided clubs controlled by blue-collar workers who mocked their clothes and envied their education. The spread of explicitly proletarian political and social organizations did not make workers more revolutionary, but it did isolate them from.

As socialist parties and trade unions grew more successful, they often became more preoccupied with immediate tasks than with their proclaimed goal of proletarian revolution. To many the democratization of the German Empire and the defeat of French militarism seemed far more immediate concerns than proletarian revolution.

Everywhere labor movements, including not only socialist reformists but also an archosyndicalists, gave more consideration to immediate reforms. Yet socialist organizations often found it difficult to reach out to those middle-class and agricultural constituencies who shared their democratic and antimilitaristic goals. Despite Continental labors' growing moderation, most peasants and solid middle-class and petit bourgeois Europeans thought only of revolution when they saw the red flag.

In spite of the presence of the sickle alongside the hammer on the red flag, labor movements seldom paid careful attention to agriculture or to the peasantry.

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Marx and Engels had predicted that economic trends would undermine the peasantry, forcing them into the ranks of revolution. While Marxist economic analysis was not wrong, the decline of the peasantry would take decades, and the failure to accommodate peasants in the here and now was a crucial socialist failure in the years before Although the rural world in many parts of Europe was rapidly changing, peasants still played an important role. In as in the majority of Europeans were agriculturalists and a majority of these were peasants.

Peasants are members of a household whose major activity is farming.