The anatomy of a working-class neighbourhood: West Sparkbrook 1871-1914

Chinn, Carl (1986). The anatomy of a working-class neighbourhood: West Sparkbrook 1871-1914. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis explores the premise that during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras there existed a significant and influential division within the working class of England's industrial towns and cities. This division, based largely on economic factors to do with the size and regularity of earnings, manifested itself first in the type and locality of residence, which in turn emphasised and reinforced the division of the working class into an upper section of better-paid usually more skilled and regularly-employed and a lower, poorer section of the low-waged and casually employed. Whilst it is not suggested that this produced "working classes" rather than "a working class", it did, nevertheless, result in two sections among the wage-earning class whose members pursued in many significant ways quite different ways of life. Economic differences allied to residential segregation meant that each section: developed different notions of such concepts as "rough" and "respectable" and did not by any means share beliefs as to what constituted acceptable or "deviant" behaviour. These and other questions are pursued by an examination of the years from 1871 to 1914 in the Birmingham neighbourhood of West Sparkbrook. The chronology has been set to make possible the use of census material and oral evidence, and the neighbourhood was chosen because, although it was in these years mainly an area of middle and upper working class housing, it had within it clearly differentiated pockets of lower working class housing, and so makes significant comparisons possible. After an examination of the growth of West Sparkbrook as a residential district, an analysis has been made of the institutions, habits and behaviour of the people of the district. Documentary, archival and oral evidence has been called on to examine the cultural schism in a number of exemplary areas. Differences in housing, schooling, working and shopping have been considered, and attitudes towards drinking, gambling and fighting. The differing roles and responsibilities within the family of men, women and children have been shown in the different groups, as well as leisure behaviour and the role of religion and of religious and charitable institutions in the lives of the community. From this picture emerges a clearer idea of the limits imposed on behaviour by the notions of "rough" and "respectable", and the extent to which these notions were developed by each group within its specific social, economic and cultural environment.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Arts
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain


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