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Title: Working-class respectability in York c. 1870-1914
Author: Masters, Charles Walter
ISNI:       0000 0004 2720 8848
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis argues that respectability was central to the core values of the great majority of ordinary workers living in late- nineteenth-century York. This respectability expressed a universal aspiration which transcended class barriers and was based on an implicit Christian discipline and morality. It met the need of morally autonomous individuals to express their dignity and identities, but for working people it also provided a strategy for coping with life's economic and other uncertainties. The thesis uses oral evidence alongside written sources, especially Rowntree's Poverty survey, to focus on basic worker attitudes, shaped and expressed at work, in the home, and through institutions of self-help, the family, religion and leisure. It contributes to the debate about working-class identity and the link between culture and socio-economic differentiation, concluding that expressions of respectability can be found throughout the working classes with even the poorest aspiring to join self-help organisations and become worthy citizens. Gender-based notions of the male breadwinner and female homemaker are confirmed as a widely-accepted constituent of what it meant to be respectable. The existence of a widespread and diffusive culture of respectability is confirmed by recent interpretations of the persistence of a parallel, diffusive Christianity among working people. Forms of leisure such as moderate drinking, are shown to have been compatible with respectable values as defined by working people themselves, whatever the definitions handed down to historians in the evidence of middle-class reformers. Concepts of rough and respectable were employed at the time and remain valuable but their meanings are problematic. Reformers from the middle and working classes, seeking moral improvement, frequently targeted marginal groups and so failed to appreciate the extent to which a wider spectrum of men and women from different social classes shared a universal set of values that distinguished and defined the respectable citizen.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available