Professions, class and society: solicitors in 19th century Birmingham
The thesis provides an analysis of an occupation in the process of making itself a profession. The solicitors' profession in Birmingham underwent a great many changes during the 19th century against a background of industrialisation and urbanisation. The solicitors' conception of their status and role, in the face of these challenges, had implications for successful strategies of professionalisation. The increased prestige and power of the profession, and especially its elite, are examined in their social context rather than in terms of a technical process, or educational and organisational change. The thesis argues that -the profession's social relationships and broad concerns were significant in establishing solicitors as "professional men". In particular these are related to the profession's efforts to gain control of markets for legal services and increase social status. In the course of achieving these aims a concept of profession and a self-image were articulated by solicitors in order to persuade society and the state of the legitimacy of their claims. The concept of the gentlemanly professional was of critical importance in this instance. The successful creation of a provincial professional "community" by the end of the 19th century rested principally on a social and moral conception of professionalism rather than one which stressed specialised training and knowledge, professional organisations and credentials.