University of the West of England: LONG NINETEENTH-CENTURY NETWOR

University of the West of England: LONG NINETEENTH-CENTURY NETWORK

Staff and Research Students Research Paper Programme: Spring-Summer 2013                             

Thursday 7 February 2013 (Lady Chapel, St Matthias Campus, UWE) 17.30-19.00

Laura Foster, Cardiff University, ‘“Is not this Cruelty, Barbarity, Almost Surpassing Belief?”: The Representation of the Workhouse Master in Nineteenth-Century Culture’

The dominant representation of the workhouse master in nineteenth-century culture is that of a power-crazed tyrant who deliberately mistreats the paupers in his care. Public contempt for the figure of the workhouse master was fuelled by the numerous workhouse scandals, reported in the press, which frequently revolved around this poor-law officer. This paper will consider how the figure of the oppressive workhouse master was constructed in the popular imagination and how nineteenth-century texts sought to contain and challenge the authority of the master. As well as factual accounts, such as newspaper reports that provoked public outcry, I will consider fictional representations of masters in anti-poor law novels such as Oliver Twist and Jessie Phillips. Central to the paper will be an examination of satirical caricatures of this figure in periodicals like Punch and the Penny Satirist, and I will consider how masters were themselves oppressed by their representation in the popular press.

Lucy Andrew, Cardiff University, ‘From “Blind-Alley” Labourer to Boy Detective: Promoting the Ideology of the ‘Conforming’ Adolescent in the Harmsworths’ Juvenile Story Papers of the 1890s’

With the decline of skilled apprenticeships at the end of the nineteenth century, an influx of working-class boys entered the ‘blind-alley’ labour market in well-paid but temporary, unskilled roles.  Middle-class moralists and reformers attempted to contain the perceived threat of the adolescent ‘blind-alley’ labourer – namely, his social freedom, economic autonomy, lack of purpose and possible criminality – through adult-supervised activities and organisations, creating a binary opposition between the ‘conforming’ and the ‘delinquent’ adolescent.  This paper will consider the role of detective fiction in the Harmsworths’ juvenile story papers of the 1890s as a subtle social conditioner, promoting the ideology of the ‘conforming’ adolescent to its ‘blind-alley’ labourer boy readers.  I will explore the civilising effect of the middle-class adult detective hero upon his initially ‘delinquent’ boy protégé who, in the glamorised role of detective’s assistant, potentially offers working-class boy readers an attractive alternative model of the ‘conforming’ adolescent.
For directions to the St Matthias Campus see  For further information about this series, or about the LNCN, please contact Prof. William Greenslade, Department of Arts: or


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s