Sexual abuse, silences and sources: Did the Victorians better protect their vulnerable children?

A recent news item on the Nature web site discussed a ‘severe publication bias’ in the Social Sciences: ‘When an experiment fails to produce an interesting effect, researchers often shelve the data and move on to another problem. But withholding null results skews the literature in a field, and is a particular worry for clinical medicine … More Sexual abuse, silences and sources: Did the Victorians better protect their vulnerable children?

High days and holidays for the workhouse child

As I wrote last Christmas, workhouse children were often treated to presents and outings over the festive period. This was not the only holiday celebrated by pauper children as the regular outings on Whit Monday (or spring bank holiday) show. Whitsun was traditionally a time for new clothes and trips and Whit Monday saw Swansea’s … More High days and holidays for the workhouse child

Women of the Workhouse, Part 2: Ladies to the Rescue?

Most middle-class women of the Victorian and Edwardian period were neither ‘Angels in the House’ nor, as described by Lawrence Stone, ‘idle drones’. Civic participation was a class and gender expectation and middle-class women were involved in charitable work from the organisation of charity bazaars to the rescue of ‘fallen’ women. Ladies’ committees were standard … More Women of the Workhouse, Part 2: Ladies to the Rescue?

Women of the Workhouse, Part I – A suitable job for a woman?

The lives of women have always been one of my primary research interests, so when my friends at Archif Menywod Cymru/Women’s Archive of Wales were asked to devise a Women’s History Walk in Swansea, I started thinking about who should be included. Mrs Corney wooed by Mr Bumble, Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist There is no … More Women of the Workhouse, Part I – A suitable job for a woman?

‘Altogether a right merrie day’? Christmas in the Workhouse

Although it is true that Charles Dickens and Prince Albert did not invent the Victorian Christmas, they did influence the Victorian imagining of Christmas considerably. Were workhouse inmates and other recipients  of poor relief allowed to participate in Dickensian festivity over Christmas or was it more a case of Bah Humbug? In the years following the 1834 … More ‘Altogether a right merrie day’? Christmas in the Workhouse

‘Likely to conduce to the happiness and advantage of the inmates’? – Victorian Education for Deaf Children.

‘Disability is everywhere in history, once you begin looking for it, but conspicuously absent from the histories we write’ observed Douglas Baynton in 2001. Of course, since then historians have begun to fill this lacuna and disability history has burgeoned, especially here at Swansea University. Baynton’s argument that disability is everywhere in history carries particular resonance … More ‘Likely to conduce to the happiness and advantage of the inmates’? – Victorian Education for Deaf Children.

‘Saucy Harry and his Moll’ – (Workhouse) Men Behaving Badly

There is no doubt that grim tales of brutality in Victorian workhouses sell popular history books, and of course the workhouse system did generate many cases of neglect and cruelty. Most perceptions of the poor laws are defined by these incidents, but some paupers also used (and abused) the system successfully. The horrifying scandals in … More ‘Saucy Harry and his Moll’ – (Workhouse) Men Behaving Badly

Victorian education for the blind: ‘cheer them in their affliction’?

Were blind children the ‘preferred figures of disability in the Victorian imagination’ as Martha Holmes argues? Depictions in art such as The Blind Girl by John Millais, 1856 (below) suggests that representations of blindness did generate widespread Victorian sentimentality and pity, which in turn led to the establishment of specialist institutions for blind children and adults. … More Victorian education for the blind: ‘cheer them in their affliction’?