The Struggle For The Breeches

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Linking the personal and the political, Anna Clark depicts the making of the working class in Britain as a "struggle for the breeches." The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries witnessed significant changes in notions of masculinity and femininity, the sexual division of labor, and sexual mores, changes that were intimately intertwined with class politics. By integrating gender into the analysis of class formation, Clark transforms the traditional narrative of working-class history.

Going beyond the sterile debate about whether economics or language determines class consciousness, Clark integrates working people's experience with an analysis of radical rhetoric. Focusing on Lancashire, Glasgow, and London, she contrasts the experience of artisans and textile workers, demonstrating how each created distinctively gendered communities and political strategies.

Workers faced a "sexual crisis," Clark claims, as men and women competed for jobs and struggled over love and power in the family. While some radicals espoused respectability, others might be homophobes, wife-beaters, and tyrants at home; a radical's love of liberty could be coupled with lust for the life of a libertine. Clark shows that in trying to create a working class these radicals closed off the movement to women, instead adopting a conservative rhetoric of domesticity and narrowing their notion of the working class.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520208834
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/18/1997
  • Series: Studies on the History of Society and Culture Series
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 436
  • Sales rank: 1,285,815
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Clark is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina. She is the author of Women's Silence, Men's Violence: Sexual Assault in England, 1770-1845 (1987).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables
1 Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Women and Men in Plebeian Culture 11
2 Setting the Stage: Work and Family, 1780-1825 13
3 Men and Women Together and Apart: Plebeian Culture and Communities 25
4 Plebeian Sexual Morality, 1780-1820 42
5 The Struggle for the Breeches: Conflict in Plebeian Marriage 63
Pt. 2 The Search for Solutions 89
6 Sin and Salvation: Men, Women, and Faith 92
7 The Struggle over the Gender Division of Labor, 1780-1826 119
8 Manhood and Citizenship: Radical Politics, 1767-1816 141
9 A Wider Vision of Community, 1815-1820 158
Pt. 3 Domesticity and the Making of the Working Class, 1820-1850 175
10 Sexual Radicalism and the Pressure of Politics 179
11 Equality or Domesticity: the Dilemma for Labor 197
12 Chartism: Domesticity and Politics 220
13 Chartism and the Problem of Women Workers 233
14 A Difficult Ideal: Domesticity in Popular Culture and Practice 248
15 Conclusion 264
Appendix on 1841 Glasgow Census Sample 273
Notes 275
Bibliography 377
Index 403
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