Understanding the Victorian Book Review

Topics: Middle class, Working class, Social class Pages: 7 (2802 words) Published: April 25, 2013
Book Review
Understanding the Victorians
Politics, Culture and Society in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Author Background:
“Understanding the Victorians” was written by Susie L. Steinbach. Susie was born in 1966 to Jewish Eastern European family in NYC. Her father was a Holocaust survivor and immigrant. She was born and raised in a lower middle-class family. She had public school education; she was able to attend gifted and talented magnet school grades 7-12, which provided support for her college application process. She was an undergraduate student in Harvard in the History and Literature Department, (senior honors essay and magna cum laude). She worked with historians John Montano, John Brewer, Chris Waters, Kathleen Wilson. She graduated with honors in Yale. She used to teach history in Yale University where she was a prize student. She later became an Associate Professor of History at. Her first book is “Women in England 1760-1914” which explores and focuses both on women and gender history of the nineteenth century in Britain and the law. Steinbach works were extensively well researched and mostly focused on gender, class structures, politics and the economy. Moreover, her language is not overly academic; therefore it is suitable for everyone who is interested in learning more about that time period. Susie Steinbach is currently a professor in the History Department in the University of Hamline and is very knowledgeable of the Victoria period in England as can be seen by her writings. With her knowledge and comprehension of her work in English history, she can be undoubtedly qualified as an expert in her field.

Understanding the Victorians: Class and Society
In 1820, Victorian society can be split up into three different classes– upper class (aristocracy and gentry), middle class, and working class –they had extremely different lives. In Victorian Britain class is related to, but not defined by, income, which tells us how much money people had, but not how or where they spent it. “Some upper working-class families had higher incomes than some lower middle-class families, but did not consider themselves middle-class. A wealthy middle-class father might send his sons to an elite school in a bid to have them accepted as upper-class as adults” (3702). Some members of the aristocracy were happy to socialize with wealthy middle-class people whose incomes were as high as their own, but some sneered at them because of their class origins. Some scholars recommend that it is wiser to think about Victorian society in terms of status and hierarchy; for example, a village schoolteacher or community priest had a status that far outweighed not only his income but his class. Steinbach mentioned that, “Status was central; the village schoolteacher had higher status than a manual laborer. Members of the Church of England were different from those who worshiped at Methodist chapels. People of African and Asian descent were considered to be of a different race, and many were convinced that this made them incapable of being fully British or fully patriotic, regardless of where they were born or how many generations of their families had lived in Britain” (3710-3713). In 1820, the working class covered about 80 percent of the population. Their family income was usually under £ 100 annually, but could go as high as £ 300 annually. The middle class made up about 15 percent of the population, and were growing both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the population throughout the Victorian period. They made often between £ 100 and £ 300 annually. The remaining 5 percent of the population were upper-class, with family incomes of at least £ 1,000 annually, and often more than that. Upper class usually got their incomes from rents of their landed estates or from investments, included the royal family, the aristocracy, and the gentry. Women were assigned the class of their husbands when...
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