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Title: Anxiety and urban life in late Victorian and Edwardian culture, 1880-1914
Author: Woods, Hannah Rose
ISNI:       0000 0004 7228 1139
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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The thesis investigates anxieties about urban life in late Victorian and Edwardian culture, and examines emotional responses to urbanisation, industrialisation and modernity at this high point of urban growth and rural-urban migration: one that marked Britain’s decisive breakthrough to a largely and permanently urbanised society. During the period, earlier nineteenth-century tropes of the ‘shock’ of the city, and anxieties surrounding rapid early urbanisation and industrialisation, began to recede. But from the 1880s onwards, as life in industrial cities came to be regarded as the norm, new anxieties came to the fore: concerns that related to the very pervasiveness and inescapability of urban life. I argue that the historically unprecedented growth in the size of cities placed enormous strain upon conceptions of the individual in modern society: the impulse to conceive of mass urban society in the abstract was in constant tension with a new, modernistic awareness of the essential humanity of each individual. The research utilises insights from the recent ‘emotional turn’ within the humanities, which is more sensitive to psychological factors in cultural practices and social processes; and brings this historiographical turn to bear on attitudes towards the city. An emotional approach enables both a deeper and subtler exploration of high cultural responses, and the extension of the range of sources and actors beyond ‘ideas’ and ‘intellectuals’. The thesis integrates a wide range of sources: literature, art, the writings of urban planners and social commentators, medical writings, working-class autobiographical writing, and oral history transcripts. Such an approach reveals the common emotional impulses and shared structures of feeling behind a diverse range of responses to the urban environment, and provides a deeper understanding of contemporary emotional life. It thus illuminates the ways in which individuals, societies and culture react to the complexities of modernity, and provides insights into the relationship between social transformation and emotional experience.
Supervisor: Mandler, Peter Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Modern British History ; Cultural History ; Urban History ; History of Emotions ; History of the Senses ; Victorian Britain ; Edwardian Britain ; Edwardian ; Victorian ; London History ; London ; Cities ; Anxiety