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MODEL INSTITUTIONS AND THE GEOGRAPHY OF SOCIAL REFORM IN EARLY VICTORIAN BRITAIN

  • TOM CROOK (a1)

Abstract

This article reconsiders the nature and novelty of social reform in Britain during the early Victorian period. Historians have long ceased to debate the period in terms of a ‘revolution in government’, or the beginnings of a welfare state. Instead, the current consensus presents a picture of only modest, fitful change. Neither the state, nor the overall ideological landscape, was radically transformed. This article seeks to reinject a sense of transformative change back into these decades. It does so by examining a neglected facet of this otherwise richly served period of social reform: the formation and functioning of a series of self-styled ‘model’ institutions that spanned the fields of education, prisons, housing, and sanitation. In particular, what the use of these model institutions brings into sharp focus are the radical changes that occurred in the geography of social reform, which at this point began to develop according to multiple spatial relations, extending at once within and beyond Britain. Between them, they helped to engineer a truly cosmopolitan culture of social policy-making, which was both multi-directional – policies flowed outwards and inwards – and composed of multiple relations, national, imperial, and transnational.

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Tom Crook, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, ox3 0bptcrook@brookes.ac.uk

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My thanks to Stephen Byrne and two referees for their helpful suggestions and advice.

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References

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1 The debate was kick-started by MacDonagh, Oliver, ‘The nineteenth-century revolution in government: a reappraisal’, Historical Journal, 1 (1958), pp. 5267, which was followed by accounts such as Roberts, David, Victorian origins of the British welfare state (New Haven, CT, 1960). For an overview of the historiography, see Mandler, Peter, ‘Introduction: state and society in Victorian Britain’, in Mandler, Peter, ed., Liberty and authority in Victorian Britain (Oxford, 2006), pp. 121.

2 Philip Harling, ‘The powers of the Victorian state’, in Mandler, ed., Liberty and authority in Victorian Britain, p. 26.

3 The revisionist literature is much too extensive to detail here; but see Harling, Philip, ‘The state’, in Williams, Chris, ed., A companion to nineteenth-century Britain (Oxford, 2004), pp. 100–24.

4 Joyce, Patrick, The rule of freedom: liberalism and the modern city (London, 2003); and Goodlad, Lauren M. E., Victorian literature and the Victorian state: character and governance in a liberal society (Baltimore, MD, 2003).

5 Price, Richard, British society, 1680‒1880: dynamism, containment and change (Cambridge, 1999), chs. 5–6.

6 Innes, Joanna, ‘“Reform” in English public life: the fortunes of a word’, in Burns, Arthur and Innes, Joanna, eds., Rethinking the age of reform: Britain, 1780–1850 (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 7197.

7 A useful overview of recent political science literature is McCann, Eugene and Ward, Kevin, ‘Policy assemblages, mobilities and mutations: toward a multidisciplinary conversation’, Political Studies Review, 10 (2012), pp. 325–32.

8 See especially Price, British society, 1680‒1880, pp. 155–99; and Eastwood, David, Government and community in the English provinces, 1700–1870 (Basingstoke, 1997).

9 E.g. Anderson, David M. and Killingray, David, eds., Policing the empire: government, authority and control, 1830–1940 (Manchester, 1991); and May, Helen, Kaur, Baljit, and Prochner, Larry, Empire education and indigenous childhoods: nineteenth-century missionary infant schools in three British colonies (Farnham, 2014).

10 Saunier, Pierre-Yves, ‘Les régimes circulatoires du domaine social 1800–1940: projets et ingénierie de la convergence et de la différence’, Genèses, 71 (2008), pp. 425. Other accounts which attend to the early Victorian period include Leonards, Chris and Randeraad, Nico, ‘Transnational experts in social reform, 1840‒1880’, International Review of Social History, 55 (2010), pp. 215–39.

11 For accounts that focus on the post-1880 period, see Rodgers, Daniel T., Atlantic crossings: social politics in a progressive age (Cambridge, MA, 1998); and Moses, Julia and Daunton, Martin, eds., ‘Border crossings: global dynamics of social policies and problems’, Journal of Global History (Special Issue), 9 (2014), pp. 177313.

12 These institutions have not entirely escaped notice, though they have never been examined together, as in this article. Pentonville prison and model housing have received the most attention. Henriques, U. R. Q., ‘The rise and decline of the separate system of prison discipline’, Past and Present, 54 (1972), pp. 6193; Evans, Robin, The fabrication of virtue: English prison architecture, 1750‒1840 (Cambridge, 1982), ch. 8; and Gaskell, S. Martin, Model housing: from the Great Exhibition to the Festival of Britain (London, 1987).

13 Millbank prison was the first in 1816; Parkhurst prison for juveniles was the second, opening in 1838.

14 Johnson, Samuel, A dictionary of the English language (London, 1755), ‘Mod’; Clarke, Hyde, A new and comprehensive dictionary of the English language (London, 1855); Chambers's English dictionary (London, 1872).

15 Zupko, Ronald Edward, Revolution in measurement: Western European weights and measures since the age of science (Philadelphia, PA, 1990), pp. 5062.

16 Smith, Denis, ‘The use of models in nineteenth-century British suspension bridge design’, History of Technology, 2 (1977), pp. 170‒8.

17 Innes, Joanna, Inferior politics: social problems and social policies in eighteenth-century Britain (Oxford, 2009), pp. 42–3.

18 Gillispie, Charles Coulston, Science and polity in France: the end of the old regime (Princeton, NJ, 1980), pp. 255‒6.

19 Howard, John, The state of the prisons in England and Wales, with preliminary observations and an account of some foreign prisons (3rd edn, Warrington, 1784), pp. 65, 92, 213, 342; Howard, John, An account of the principal lazarettos in Europe (Warrington, 1789), pp. 110, 223.

20 Clark, John, A collection of papers, intended to promote an institution for the cure and prevention of infectious fevers in Newcastle and other populous towns (Newcastle, 1802), p. 5.

21 Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline and for the Reformation of Offenders, Juvenile, Remarks on the form and construction of prisons (London, 1826), p. iv.

22 Parkes, Susan M., Kildare Place: the history of the Church of Ireland Training College and College of Education, 1811–2010 (Dublin, 2011).

23 Twentieth report of the British and Foreign School Society, to the general meeting, May 9, 1825 (London, 1825), pp. 127–36; BFSS/1/1/6/14, Brunel University London Archives (BULA).

24 Eighth annual report of the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church (London, 1819), p. 10.

25 Innes, Joanna, ‘Central government “interference”: changing conceptions, practices and concerns, c. 1700–1850’, in Harris, Jose, ed., Civil society in British history: ideas, identities, institutions (Oxford, 2003), pp. 3960.

26 Report of William Crawford, on the penitentiaries of the United States, addressed to His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, HC 1834 (593), XLVI, pp. 1–51.

27 Third report of the inspectors appointed under the provisions of the Act 5 & 6 Will. IV, c. 38 to visit the different prisons of Great Britain: I. Home District, HC 1837–8 (141), xxx, p. 100.

28 Lord John Russell, ‘Supply–Model Prison’, speech to the House of Commons, 4 May 1840, Parliamentary debates, Commons, 3rd ser., vol. 53 (1840), col. 1189.

29 Evans, Fabrication of virtue, pp. 354–60.

30 Quoted in Roberts, Henry, The dwellings of the labouring classes, their arrangement and construction (3rd edn, London, 1853), p. ii.

31 Tarn, John Nelson, Five per cent philanthropy: an account of housing in urban areas between 1840 and 1914 (London, 1973), pp. 1820.

32 See especially Wohl, Anthony S., The eternal slum: housing and social policy in Victorian London (London, 1977), pp. 142–5.

33 Price Baly, Prichard, A statement of the proceedings of the Committee appointed to promote the establishment of baths and washhouses for the labouring classes (London, 1852), p. 15.

34 Papers on education, HC 1839 (16), xli, p. 1.

35 Reports of the commissioners to inquire into the state of popular education in England, i: 1861 (Cd 2794-i), p. 643.

36 Twenty-ninth report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1834), pp. 35; BFSS/1/1/6/23, BULA.

37 Fourth report of the Glasgow Educational Society's Normal Seminary, 1837 (Glasgow, 1839), pp. 1920.

38 See especially Rich, R. W., The training of teachers in England and Wales during the nineteenth century (Trowbridge, 1972), ch. 3.

39 Whitbread, Nanette, The evolution of the nursery-infant school: a history of infant and nursery education in Britain, 1800–1970 (London, 1972), chs. 1–2.

40 Evans, Fabrication of virtue, pp. 367–84.

41 John Michael Weiler, ‘Army architects: the royal engineers and the development of building technology in the nineteenth century’ (D.Phil., York, 1987), pp. 436–8; Johnston, Norman, Forms of constraint: a history of prison architecture (Urbana, IL, 2000), pp. 99100.

42 Fourth report of the Glasgow Educational Society's Normal Seminary, 1837, pp. 21, 24.

43 ‘Home and Colonial Infant School Society’, Home Missionary Magazine (Oct. 1838), p. 168; Quarterly Educational Magazine, 1 (London, 1848), pp. 94–5, 369–70.

44 Leonards and Randeraad, ‘Transnational experts in social reform, 1840‒1880’, pp. 225–9.

45 Jebb, Lieutenant-Colonel, Observations on the separate system of prison discipline, submitted to the congress assembled at Brussels on the subject of prison reform (London, 1847).

46 Roberts, Henry, ‘Report on the Congrès International de Bienfaisance and on the Association International de Bienfaisance’, Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science: 1858 (London, 1859), pp. 685–6; Congrès international de bienfaisance de Londres, Session de 1862, ii (Brussels, 1863), pp. 197203.

47 Hawes, W., ‘Baths and wash-houses’, Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science: 1857 (London, 1858), pp. 594600.

48 Report of a public meeting to consider the best method of extending the operations of the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes (London, 1854), pp. 89.

49 Forty-fourth annual report of the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church (London, 1855), p. vi.

50 Report of the surveyor-general of prisons on the construction, ventilation and details of Pentonville Prison, 1844, HC 1844 (594), xxviii.

51 Baly, Statement of the proceedings of the Committee, pp. 11–13.

52 Emsley, Clive, Crime, police and penal policy: European experiences, 1750‒1940 (Oxford, 2007), pp. 174–5.

53 Curl, James Stevens, The life and work of Henry Roberts, 1803–1876: the evangelical conscience and the campaign for model housing and healthy nations (Chichester, 1983), p. 156.

54 Roberts, Henry, The improvement of the dwellings of the labouring classes through the operation of government measures, by those of public bodies and benevolent associations, as well as individual efforts (London, 1859), pp. 22–5.

55 Henriques, ‘The rise and decline of the separate system of prison discipline’, pp. 78–87; ‘Whig New Model Bastille’, The Age (June 1841), p. 181.

56 Forsythe, Bill, ‘Centralisation and local autonomy: the experience of English prisons, 1820–1877’, Journal of Historical Sociology, 4 (1991), pp. 324–9.

57 See especially Baly, Statement of the proceedings of the Committee; and Ebsworth, Alfred, Facts and inferences drawn from an inspection of the public baths and washhouses in this metropolis (London, 1853).

58 E.g. Second report of the surveyor-general of prisons, 1847 (C. 867), xxix, pp. 59–65, 68–77; and Smith, Thomas Southwood, Results of sanitary improvement (London, 1854).

59 Gaskell, Model housing, pp. 21–3.

60 Bache, Alexander Dallas, Report on education in Europe, to the trustees of the Girard College for Orphans (Philadelphia, PA, 1839), pp. 159–69, 174–5; Mann, Horace, Report of an educational tour, in Germany and parts of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1846), p. 69; Barnard, Henry, National education in Europe (Hartford, CT, 1854), ch. ‘England’.

61 Baly, Statement of the proceedings of the Committee, p. 13.

62 ‘The visitors book’, records of the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes, LMA/4025/03, London Metropolitan Archives.

63 Report of the surveyor-general of prisons, p. 19.

64 Caruso, Marcelo and Vera, Eugenia Roldán, ‘Pluralizing meanings: the monitorial system of education in Latin America in the early nineteenth century’, Paedagogica Historica, 41 (2005), pp. 645–54, at p. 650.

65 Second report of the surveyor-general of prisons, p. 39; Johnston, Forms of constraint, p. 93.

66 Hawes, ‘Baths and wash-houses’, pp. 594–5.

67 Curl, Life and work of Henry Roberts, 1803–1876, pp. 156–66.

68 Adam, Thomas, Buying respectability: philanthropy and urban society in transnational perspective, 1840s to 1930s (Bloomington, IN, 2009), p. 48.

69 Johnston, Forms of constraint, pp. 102–3.

70 Manual of the system of primary instruction, pursued in the model schools of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1834), pp. vivii.

71 Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education, with appendices and plans of school houses, part II: 1839–1840, HC 1840 (254), xl, appendix 1.

72 Baly, Statement of the proceedings of the Committee, pp. 15–40.

73 E.g. Roberts, The dwellings of the labouring classes, their arrangement and construction; and Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes, Plans and suggestions for dwellings adapted to the working classes, including the model houses for families built by command of the Prince Consort (4th edn, London, 1870).

74 Second report of the surveyor-general of prisons, pp. 12–15.

75 Rodger, Richard, Housing in urban Britain, 1780–1914 (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 4451.

My thanks to Stephen Byrne and two referees for their helpful suggestions and advice.

MODEL INSTITUTIONS AND THE GEOGRAPHY OF SOCIAL REFORM IN EARLY VICTORIAN BRITAIN

  • TOM CROOK (a1)

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