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Title: Women of the local elite in Lancashire, 1750-c.1825
Author: Vickery, Amanda Jane.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3547 0158
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1991
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Eighteenth-century women have been presented as the heroines of traditional biographies and as the faceless victims of vast historical processes, only recently have they been actually researched. Essentially, this study reconstructs the material lives and discursive world of three groups of Lancashire women, using personal and administrative records. Four themes structure the account: the profile of the local elite, the roles available to women in genteel families, the extent of social transition,1750-1825, and the applicability of the conceptual vocabulary of 'separate spheres'. Along the way, women's manuscripts illuminate historical debates: on love and marriage, on mothering, on the household and servants, on consumerism, on polite culture, and on social structure and relations. Lesser gentry, professional and commercial families in north-east Lancashire constituted a coherent group at the apex of local society. While gentlemen pursued county, professional, commercial and estate business, genteel ladies had to content themselves with matrimony, motherhood, housekeeping, consumption, hostessing and print. Elite women were constrained by their duties, yet many were able to draw status and esteem from the roles available to them. Over the period, their daily lives and liberties altered little, but modes of expression were less constant. In the 1810s and 1820s, male-female discourse became infused with the rhetoric of dominance and submission, but in the light of material continuity, the significance of linguistic change is unresolved. These eighteenth-century women enjoyed no public powers, that their Victorian sisters were subsequently denied. In 1750 as in 1850, their power centred upon the family, household and sociability, rather than counting house or courtroom. Yet the vocabulary of 'public and private' and 'separate spheres' is rejected here. The division of labour in prosperous households was both too longstanding to explain Victorian class formation, and too complex to be carved into sexually distinct public and private realms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History