Bourgeois Portsmouth : social relations in a Victorian dockyard town, 1815-75
Nineteenth century Portsmouth experienced greater continuity\ud of development than most industrial towns. Its size, the\ud military and naval presence, and a large working class,\ud were already well-established by the late eighteenth\ud century. State ownership meant that the Yard was not\ud producing for a competitive product market; other than\ud politically-inspired demands for economy, management had\ud little incentive to rationalize production. The civilian\ud trades were more typical of other areas: mainly small-scale\ud clothing production, often employing women and often based\ud upon outwork.\ud Thanks to the large state sector and the consequent underdevelopment\ud of commercial activities, Portsmouth had few\ud extremely wealthy inhabitants, but many in comfortable\ud circumstances. The most wealthy were often women, followed\ud by retailers, commercial men, building employers, brewers,\ud and a few professional men. Despite a widely-held belief\ud that the town was not sharply differentiated, by wealth,\ud cultural activities were greatly affected by class and status.\ud Yard officials were infrequent participants in high-status\ud activities, unless they held existing naval officer rank.\ud Officers and the Southsea elite were the most frequent\ud participants.\ud The Borough continued to be dominated by %Thig-Liberals after\ud the 1830s. In particular, the role of the Carter family was\ud undiminished for some years. Growth of the electorate,\ud fears for the future of the Dockyard, decline of reformist xenthusiasm,\ud and resentment at Whig policies fed an expanding\ud populist Toryism. Always characterized by high participation\ud by retailers, the status of Councillors fell steadily.\ud Rating was the most important issue in local politics.\ud Authority in the Yard was shared, between the Admiralty,\ud local management, and key groups of craftsmen. Most Yard\ud workers saw no need for trade union organization. Friendly\ud benefits were already covered by non-contributory provision\ud from the employer; repre s ent ationh took place through the\ud committee system and petitioning. Only with the onset of\ud serious demarcation disputes did the labour force start to\ud organize. Outside the Yard, the only permanent organizations\ud were among skilled building workers. Workers were more\ud likely to organize as consumers, through cooperatives; local\ud social leaders could be asked to take up Dockyard issues.\ud The concept of social control has limited value. The i834\ud Poor Law Amendment Act was not fully implemented, and the\ud provision of a workhouse was unwillingly undertaken.\ud Charities were more important in creating or confirming\ud status than in controlling working people. While both poor\ud relief and education were seen as means of social control,\ud working people evaded poor relief through friendly societies\ud or Admiralty provision, and schools met many disciplinary\ud difficulties. The Borough Police demonstrated class bias;\ud only with difficulty were the police themselves brought to\ud accept their role. Most moral reform movements were conspicuous\ud for their failure to secure their ends.
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