A Pleasing Prospect: Social Change and Urban Culture in Eighteenth-century Colchester
DescriptionBased on extensive primary-source research, "A Pleasing Prospect" considers the changing historical identity of eighteenth-century Colchester from the perspective of its 'middling sort' - a section of society often attached to cultures of politeness and to the practices of consumption and production that helped shape economic change, and which has recently attracted greater attention from historians. Dr D'Cruze painstakingly reconstructs eighteenth-century social networks along lines of family, kinship, gender, spatiality, religion and politics to examine the relationships between individual and family biographies and broader historical change and to reflect on the historical identity of the middling sort as well as on eighteenth-century provincial urban society and culture.In the past historians have tended to concentrate their attention on faster growing (often northern) towns rather than those, such as Colchester, broadly perceived as having been overtaken by industrialisation. A large southern provincial town, Colchester, despite the decline of its staple textile industry, capitalised on growth in agriculturally-based industries such as brewing, milling and malting, its role as an east-coast port and the proliferation of its commerce, to underpin its participation in the 'urban renaissance' and the commodification of polite culture.As a parliamentary borough with a large, popular electorate, Colchester had both lively political interests and the institutions of local governance and office-holding which framed a political dimension to middling-sort identity along an axis dividing independent (male) citizens from those whom poverty rendered dependent. The political dynamic and the tensions between politeness and disorder are all distilled by Dr D'Cruze into this fascinating historical account.
University of Hertfordshire Press
1 April 2009
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