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MASCULINITY, 1560-1918: MEN DEFINING MEN AND GENTLEMEN

Part 2: 1800-1918, Sources from the Bodleian Library, Oxford

Publisher's Note

Notions of Empire are tied up with masculinity and men - many of the Victorian and Edwardian heroes of Empire are male, from Kitchener to Rhodes, Livingstone to Speke, Gordon to Havelock. Masculinity: Men Defining Men, 1560-1918 facilitates study into whether it was men that shaped Victoria’s Empire or Empire that shaped Victoria’s men.

A new scholarship is emerging to explore these concepts that, in turn, tell us a great deal about gender relations, the control of power and society as a whole. This project makes available a body of rich source material from the Bodleian Library to facilitate the examination of these questions. How did the Victorian patriarchal model of society, strictly hierarchical with a father at the head of every household, emerge? How was this reconciled with the fact that a woman, Queen Victoria, was the head of the Royal Household? Why did Queen Victoria, newly proclaimed Empress of India, reinforce the patriarchal ideology with her pronouncement: ‘Let woman be what God intended, a helpmeet for man, but with totally different duties and vocations’. How did the growth of Empire affect notions of masculinity? What role did religion play in defining gender roles?

This material shows how concepts of masculinity changed over time. It shows how French and Italian models of behaviour influenced English attitudes. It shows how concepts of masculinity were created, policed and maintained by men.

Part 2 of this project provides a wide range of rare printed sources with which to examine changes in attitudes towards manliness during the late Hanoverian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. The literature of education is particularly revealing and exhibits breathtaking certainty concerning man's position in society and the white man's position in the running of the world. Scriptural authority was proclaimed and men were educated to lead. Public School education taught patriotism and rigour, fashioning emotionally austere, self-controlled and verbally reticent sons of empire. Yet against this picture of taciturn English maleness was a contrasting world of homosexual relations, loneliness and increasing sympathy for the rights of women. Works such as G N Banks's A Day of my Life; or, Every-day experiences at Eton (1877) and An Eton boy's letters (1901) help to show the reality of school life in contrast to the prescribed life.
Business and Industry also had a profound impact on masculinity during this period. The sons of aristocracy found themselves at school with sons of business. Works such as The Manners of the aristocracy, by one of themselves (1881) define a different type of man from that found in Household truths for working men (1857), or Golden rules for success in life, business, health … (1906). Although by reading works such as How to Shine in Society, 1860, sons of business hoped to pass without unfavourable notice in polite society, men also had to function in a new business environment. There was an increase in factories and offices away from the home and a growth of a new literature with titles such as The Man of Business Considered (1864), How to Excel in Business (1876) and the Guide to the Government, Civil Service, East India Service, and the Leading Professions (1857).

As a counterpoint to the cut and thrust of business there emerged the comfortable world of Victorian domesticity, a safe place of retreat for the man to a companionate marriage with obedient children. This world is pictured in Rules for the Behaviour of children (1840), How to choose a wife (1855), and George Bainton's the Wife as Lover and Friend (1895).

Towards the end of this period there is also much promotion of adventure and advocacy of emigration and imperial service. Childhood aspirations are defined by books of heroes such as Men and Deeds (1910), Men of the Moment (1915) and Baden Powell: the hero of Mafeking (1907). Was this to escape from the crisis of masculinity at home, brought about by changes in divorce laws, child protection and the gradual encroachment of women upon previously masculine areas of control?

These texts will enable students and scholars to explore the social and historical construction of gender and sexuality and to create a new gendered history of men. They will be used by literary scholars, sociologists and social historians and form an invaluable complement to our existing series on Women Advising Women and Women and Victorian Values.

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