Limited Livelihoods: Gender and Class in Nineteenth-Century England

Limited Livelihoods: Gender and Class in Nineteenth-Century England

Limited Livelihoods: Gender and Class in Nineteenth-Century England

Limited Livelihoods: Gender and Class in Nineteenth-Century England

Synopsis

Integrating analytical tools from feminist theory, cultural studies and sociology to illuminate detailed historical evidence, Sonya Rose argues that gender was a central principle of the 19th century industrial transformation in England.

Excerpt

This book concerns the central role of gender in the massive reorganization of lives and livelihoods that accompanied the economic, social, political, and cultural revolutions of industrial capitalism in England. It primarily focuses on the importance of gender in class relations in the second half of the nineteenth century.

England was in the vanguard of the industrial revolution, and it was there, during the nineteenth century, that industrial capitalism came into full flower. In the last half of the century, seeds that had been sown much earlier produced bounteous riches for some, along with bitter fruit for others. Factories replaced homes and workshops, altering landscapes from the level Midlands to the craggy hillsides of Lancashire in the north. Cities and towns swelled to accommodate rural immigrants as novel ways of manufacturing familiar goods re-placed older ones and new commodities were produced for sale in markets that often lay an ocean away.

Relations between and among the men and women who created the first industrial nation were transformed by the very development of that society. As working people struggled to secure their livelihoods they found themselves constrained by shifting forms of employment, competition with one another for scarce jobs, and revised legal entitlements, responsibilities, and restrictions. They were forced to improvise new directions for living that altered the familiar routes of the past, and gender distinctions were crucial to these transformed patterns and emerging practices.

The upheavals in people’s lives and livelihoods, and the unequal distribution of the costs and benefits of industrial transformation, have been at the center of historical and sociological accounts of this momentous period. Visible disjunctures and fissures in social relationships and their consequences stimulated the development of classical social theory. Following in the pathways defined by Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, historians and sociologists have shown . . .

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