I Know What I Know

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I learned a few things today:

1) Parliament is not anywhere near as old as we think it is when we look at it. The original houses burned in the 1830s and were rebuilt in the 1840s and 50s in the gothic revival style of architecture that was all the rage in the mid-19th century.
2) Work on the London underground (and specifically, work on the Metropolitan, District, and Circle lines) began in 1854.
3) Double-decker omnibuses (horse-drawn, carrying about 20 people, and looking remarkably similar to current double-deckers) came about directly in response to the Great Exhibition of 1851, since at times 100,000 a day would show up.
4) Electric lights were installed in the British Museum Library in 1879.
5) The poverty line in the mid-Victorian period was approximately £45 a year.
6) The children of peers enjoyed no special rights, and were by law commoners.
7) The minimum income for a member of the middle classes was £300 per annum.

and finally, the reason I’ve been having so much trouble with class in the Victorian novel:

8) There was no such thing as the “upper class” in Victorian England. There were only three classes: the working classes, the aristocracy, and everyone in between. Those who fell into the latter category were, of course, of the middle class.

Now here’s what’s been so confusing for me about this: if someone was a successful banker or merchant making, say, £10,000 per year (the annual income of many peers on the low end of the scale), owning a home both in the city and a country estate, and employing 7 servants, that person was middle class.

This is certainly reductive, but taking a close look at average incomes has really helped me put all of this into perspective.


Written by srogers

July 2, 2011 at 2:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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