Victorian Vices: How Moral were the Moralisers?

Ref: C2346536

The Victorian middle classes expended a great deal of time, effort and money on ‘civilising’ the masses and making them less ‘vicious’ - but how successful were they? Was the main effect, as one historian has suggested, to provide them with institutions such as Working Men's Clubs, libraries, sports clubs and other 'rational recreations' that they could not afford to provide for themselves? And if the masses were actually more virtuous by the end of the Victorian period, was this because they had accepted middle class values, or had their own experience of life led them to draw similar but independent conclusions about the value of avoiding 'vice' of various kinds? This lecture will also ask how virtuous the promoters of Victorian virtues were themselves, examining evidence of double standards, and some high profile scandals which cast doubt on their own moral authority.

Course aim

To consider how successful were the efforts of the Victorian middle classes to make the working classes more virtuous; and to ask how far those who sought to impose their own values demonstrated them in reality.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Give examples of the 'rational recreations' provided by the Victorian middle classes for the working classes as alternatives to 'vice'.
  • Assess how far working class virtues of hard work, thrift, self-help and respectability were based on their own experiences of life, rather than being imposed upon them by the middle classes.
  • Give examples of double standards on the part of those who attempted to prevent or suppress 'vicious' behaviour among the masses.
  • Know where to access additional sources for further independent study.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

There is nothing that you need to know or bring to the lecture.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Victorian Vices: How Moral were the Moralisers?


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