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The Victorian City (HI371) - Essay Questions

Please use seminar questions as essay titles in term 2 or discuss alternative ideas with me.
Source-based Essay

Write a critical assessment of the value, for the study of urban history of a particular source or sources. The title of the essay can be tailored to meet your own requirements, but could follow the pattern of the examples below:

How useful a historical source is the newspaper press? (enter the particular source chosen)

Are all historical sources used in the study of urban history equally biased?

‘The problem for urban historians in this period lies in the abundance rather than the scarcity of the sources available for study’. Discuss.

How accurate is the picture of the Mancchester working-classes given in Kay-Shuttleworth’s report: The moral and physical condition of the working classes employed in the cotton manufacture in Manchester?

Examples of sources to study include: urban newspapers; population censuses; social reports (eg the Booth and Rowntree studies of poverty, see earlier section); contemporary novels (see earlier section); poll books and voting registers; buildings, architecture and urban spaces; cemeteries and grave stones; religious censuses and church registers; maps, plans and sketches.

You may wish to combine this source based essay with work towards your longer assessed piece of work.

General Topics

These are suggestions only, please discuss any alternatives with me. Essays can be answered focussing on one city or as a comparative study.

Should the Victorian city be studied as ‘a social entity in itself and for itself’ independent of the wider society in which the city is situated?

How different is urban history from urban historical geography, urban sociology; local history or historical sociology?

How different are Victorian cities?

What opportunities were there for members of the working-classes to participate in the government of Victorian cities?

Were the landed elite excluded from the government of Victorian cities?

Examine central/local government relations in this period.

In which areas of society could Victorian women participate?

Assess the levels of social mobility in Victorian cities.

‘The transiency of the urban population in Victorian Britain prevented the formation of communities’. Discuss.

To what extent did urban migration disrupt traditional patterns of life in Victorian cities?

How adequate was the response in this period to the housing problems of the urban poor?

Was the trend towards suburbanisation in later Victorian Britian a feature of the middle classes desire to ‘escape’ from the realities of capitalism?

‘The model villages of nineteenth-century Britain reflected the subordination of the working people’. Discuss.

How important was early state housing in improving living conditions for the masses?

Did the manufacturing middle class possess a distinctive and dominant ideology of their own?

Which factors encouraged and which hindered the development of a class society in the cities of Victorian Britain?

How did members of the middle-classes seek to establish their position within Victorian cities?

Examine the occupational structure of Victorian cities.

Account for the prevalence of sweated labour in Victorian Britain.

What were the causes and consequences of the high levels of unemployment and casual labour in Victorian cities.