Social distinction and the written word : two provincial case studies, Warwick and Draguignan, 1780-1820
This is a comparative study of two countries, England and France, two county towns, Warwick and Draguignan, and two families of the trading-manufacturing sort. It argues that, during the period around 1780-1820, the acquisition of a certain form of education, which included an emphasis on fluent reading, writing, and grammar. preferably Latin grammar, became as important as the acquisition of capital. This cultural capital gave its new owners a self-perceived distinction which allowed them to consider themselves and to be considered by others as different. Even if local, regional, and national differences are taken into account, this comparative study shows that this new perception developed as a transnational phenomenon, a form of culture sallS jrolltieres, even during the times of enmity and almost uninterrupted wars between Britain and France which characterise this period. This process had begun earlier in the eighteenth century, when the idea of a public opinion and its premise of equal interaction amongst its proponents was 'invented'; but it was facilitated by the French Revolution with its legacy of the notion of equality, and therefore of the importance of communication in forging democracy. The written word was the chosen means to achieve this. It is argued that this distinctive culture, in the production and consumption of which women played a considerable part, gave voice and a social and political consciousness to those who began to see themselves as the 'middle class'.