Politics and Politicians

Matthew Jones, “On Nineteenth-Century Welsh Literacies, and the ‘Blue Book’ Education Reports of 1847”

This essay considers the 1847 Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales, better known as the “Blue Books,” which alleged that Wales’s Welsh-speaking population was benighted, immoral, superstitious, and barbarous, and in need of English-language education. These factors were said to be compromising the country’s modernization while also, in more quiet ways, threatening British society more broadly. The Welsh language was the primary target, and it was deemed antiquated and unfit for commercial and imperial life. Through the Welsh language, the Blue Books also inveighed against Welsh motherhood, Wales’s increasing Nonconformity, and its recharged and growing literary culture. I place the Blue Books in a larger nineteenth-century Welsh context, focusing especially on how rising rates of literacy and religiosity across the country countered the Blue Books’ primary claims. I discuss with particular emphases the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist movement, the antiquarian movement, the revived eisteddfod literary festival, and the influences of Welsh women in Welsh society and as Welsh mothers. Furthermore, I argue that the Blue Books borrowed much colonialist rhetoric then in fashion that disparaged Irish, Indian, Chinese, and African people. With this in mind, the Blue Books fit in among contemporary colonial documents, and they construct the Welsh in similar manners to how other non-English populations were during this moment of Victorian Britain.

Jonathan Mulrooney, "Edmund Kean, Event"

Jonathan Mulrooney, “Edmund Kean, Event”

This article considers Regency actor Edmund Kean’s presence as a figure in the theatrical news of the day, arguing that Kean’s acting style, coupled with changes in periodical print culture, reframed the relation between the British theatrical tradition, the actor’s stage performance, and audience reception. Emphasizing an “illegitimate” grammar of representation characterized by gesture, mobility, and emotional transition, Kean enacted new forms of subjectivity that aligned with emerging modes of theatrical criticism to shape readers’ concepts of their own private experience and their imagined engagement with public events.

Kathleen Frederickson, "British Writers on Population, Infrastructure, and the Great Indian Famine of 1876-8"

Kathleen Frederickson, “British Writers on Population, Infrastructure, and the Great Indian Famine of 1876-8”

This article examines British writing about the 1876-8 famine in southern and western India. In British newspapers and journals, the turn to thinking about famine in terms of the total population obscured the extreme variations in food access that worsened with rising economic inequality. When the British press in the late-1870s turned to human causes of famine, they either argued that India’s population overburdened India’s land, or suggested that more rail construction would prevent enough deaths sufficiently to mitigate British responsibility for famine conditions. The turn to population-based arguments helped either to perpetuate the belief that famine was a quasi-natural part of India or to parse the sudden increase in the frequency and severity famines in India under British rule.

Robert O'Kell, "On Young England"

Robert O’Kell, “On Young England”

Young England was a short-lived social and political movement that developed from the altruistic ideas of a small parliamentary ginger group within the Conservative Party in the 1840s. At the core of the movement were Benjamin Disraeli (their acknowledged leader), Lord John Manners, George Sydney Smythe and Alexander Baillie Cochrane, all of whom were appalled at the state of party politics, class conflict, and the economic and moral condition of Victorian England’s poor. Their dissatisfaction with Sir Robert Peel’s leadership of the Party gained popular momentum when, between 1844 and 1847, Disraeli published a trilogy of novels that embodied both devastating satirical attacks on traditional Tory politics and an idealistic, nostalgic vision of a revitalized aristocracy motivated by social duty.

Lynn Shakinovsky, "The 1857 Financial Crisis and the Suspension of the 1844 Bank Act"

Lynn Shakinovsky, “The 1857 Financial Crisis and the Suspension of the 1844 Bank Act”

The 1857 financial crisis began in the United States and reached England in October of that year with the fall of the Liverpool Boro’ Bank. This essay examines representations of and responses to the crisis by some of the major figures and key sources of the period. While an increasingly widespread acknowledgement of the inevitability, at times even of the desirability, of crisis manifests itself in various representations and discussions of the financial crisis, the diverse ideological assumptions and expectations of various writers, politicians, and journalists proffer widely differing explanations and solutions. These range from Marx and Engels who saw in the crisis the opportunity for revolution, to entrenched capitalists who regarded it as a necessary occurrence for the promotion of further growth, to politicians and bankers who called for new interventions in the Banking system. Through an investigation of political, journalistic, and academic responses to the 1857 crisis and the suspension of the Bank Charter Act of 1844, this paper explores the political and economic significance of the crisis for mid-century global capitalism and the Banking system.

Janice Carlisle, "On the Second Reform Act, 1867"

Janice Carlisle, “On the Second Reform Act, 1867”

The Second Reform Act, arguably the signal political event of the 1860s, enfranchised large numbers of working-class men by setting a new financial standard for the suffrage. It became law only after members of Parliament vigorously debated the failed reform measure proposed by the Liberal party in 1866 and the successful, though much amended, Conservative bill of 1867. The law created new problems when it terminated compounding, the customary practice by which landlords added to their tenants’ rent the sums that covered the poor rates and other taxes that those tenants owed. The Second Reform Act therefore exemplifies the way in which one piece of reforming legislation in the mid-Victorian period often created the need for another. Completing at least some of the work that the 1867 act had been expected to do, the Assessed Rates Amendment Act in 1869 reinstated compounding; in doing so, it liberalized the qualifications for voting in the boroughs of England and Wales in a way that moved Britain toward the goal of universal (manhood) suffrage.

Figure 1: Portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1814)

Sean Grass, “On the Death of the Duke of Wellington, 14 September 1852”

This essay discusses the death of the Duke of Wellington on 14 September 1852, which is notable less for the fact or manner of his death than for the spectacular funeral that followed two months later, on 18 November. By the time of his death, Wellington was already a kind of living monument, a last grand hero of England’s bygone Romantic age. Consequently, and precisely because it followed on the heels of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Wellington’s death crystallized a pivotal cultural moment, when England’s Romantic past gave way finally and decisively to the pressures of commodity, celebrity, and spectacle that had been mounting for a half-century, and that would characterize the increasingly modern tone of Victorian England. First, this essay discusses the lavish arrangements for Wellington’s state funeral, then it attempts to describe the nation’s complex impulses simultaneously to mourn and commodify the great Duke. Finally the essay captures, as much as possible, the ways that Britons – from Queen Victoria to William Gladstone to Charles Dickens – responded to this moment, unlike any other in English history.

Carolyn Vellenga Berman, "On the Reform Act of 1832"

Carolyn Vellenga Berman, “On the Reform Act of 1832”

This entry examines a key moment for the British national imagination: the Great Reform Act of 1832 (or First Reform Act). It explores this crisis in aristocratic rule through the prisms of class, religion, geography, and the rise of the popular press, highlighting the concept of “representation of the people” enshrined by the act and the Age of Reform that it inaugurated.

Ellen Malenas Ledoux, "Florizel and Perdita Affair, 1779-80"

Ellen Malenas Ledoux, “Florizel and Perdita Affair, 1779-80”

This article examines the cultural and political significance of the Prince of Wales’s early 1780s involvement with Drury Lane actress and poet Mary Robinson. Rather than just a romance between two public figures, the “Florizel and Perdita Affair” had wide-ranging effects that, when examined, offer meaningful insight into everything from the weakening influence of the Hanover dynasty and the campaigns of Whig opposition candidates to the aesthetics of formal portraiture, political cartoons, and popular fashion.

Mary Jean Corbett, "On Crawford v. Crawford and Dilke, 1886"

Mary Jean Corbett, “On Crawford v. Crawford and Dilke, 1886″

Crawford v. Crawford and Dilke was among the first Victorian divorce cases to involve a well-known English politician. It achieved scandalous status in its own time for both its lurid sexual details and its high-profile cast of characters. Focusing less on the chief male actors than its female participants, including Maye Dilke and Virginia Crawford, I consider the response by contemporary feminists to Sir Charles Dilke’s fall from power, as a consequence of his perceived transgressions, and some implications of the scandal for feminist politics in the 1880s and 1890s.