Youth Gangs, Masculinity and Violence in Late Victorian Manchester and Salford

By Davies, Andrew | Journal of Social History, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Youth Gangs, Masculinity and Violence in Late Victorian Manchester and Salford


Davies, Andrew, Journal of Social History


It is surprising how few people, outside of the police and those residing in the immediate neighbourhoods where the outrages occur, really know what "scuttling" is. In the first place, the "scuttler" is not a thief, nor does he aspire to be a highwayman; he does not "scuttle" for any actually dishonest purpose.

WHAT IS A SCUTTLER?

A "scuttler" is a lad, usually between the ages of 14 and 18, or even 19, and "scuttling" consists of the fighting of two opposed bands of youths, who are armed with various weapons.

Alexander Devine, Scuttlers and Scuttling: Their Prevention and Cure (Manchester, 1890), p. 2.

Historians are well aware that Britain's cities have a history of conflict between rival youth gangs. In their influential studies of "hooliganism", Stephen Humphries and Geoffrey Pearson have both pointed to the existence of violent gangs such as the "scuttlers" of Manchester and Salford during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.(1) However, in the absence in Britain of a tradition of research in empirical sociology to parallel the classic Chicago studies of the gang during the 1920s and 1930s, our knowledge of youth-gang formation in British cities prior to the Second World War remains patchy.(2)

The most detailed historical exploration of the culture of the British youth gang is to be found in the work of Stephen Humphries. In Hooligans or Rebels? (1981), Humphries adopted a class-centred approach through which he was concerned to show that violent gangs emerged in inner-city areas characterised by deprivation and high levels of unemployment. Street-gang culture, Humphries asserted, "offered working-class youth the opportunity to conquer its feelings of hunger, failure and insignificance and to assert a proud and rebellious identity through which its members could feel masters of their own destiny."(3) According to Humphries, weapons were possessed by "a small minority" of gangs, but were "carried largely as symbols of defiance and resistance" and were rarely used.(4) In Humphries' account, "serious violence" was most likely to escalate when established street gangs turned against newly arrived immigrant groups, especially in periods of economic decline. The severity of assaults upon young Jewish immigrants in East and South London during the 1890s, for example, reflected acute anxieties over competition in local labour and housing markets.(5)

Humphries thus situated his analysis of street gangs within a broader discussion of class and ethnicity. By contrast, he showed little concern with gender, noting only in passing that "the assertion of masculinity" was one of the focal concerns of the working-class street gang.(6) My aim in the present paper is to develop a more nuanced analysis of confrontations between rival gangs in relation to masculine notions of honour and reputation. Moreover, by exploring the broader relationship between masculinity and violence in the working-class districts of late Victorian Manchester and Salford, I propose to show that gang conflicts were rooted in a much wider association between "hardness" and masculine status which permeated working-class culture.(7) "Hardness", or toughness, was considered a quintessential masculine virtue. Considerable kudos was derived from displays of fighting prowess and the ability to withstand pain, and boys and youths continually tested each other's mettle in order to prove themselves, and thus their masculinity, in the eyes of their peers.(8) In addition to courting peer respect, displays of male bravado were intended to impress young women, and youths assumed a chivalrous obligation to avenge perceived insults to their female associates. Working-class youths commonly regarded their "sweethearts" as their property, and the attentions of rival suitors constituted clear infringements of male honour.(9)

Gang conflicts provided a systematic means for young men to prove themselves against their peers, and affrays were invested with great significance by the participants. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Youth Gangs, Masculinity and Violence in Late Victorian Manchester and Salford
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.