The 1840s was one of the most turbulent and fraught decades of modern British history. With the rise of Chartism and the repeal of the Corn Laws we have key moments in the emergence of working-class organisation, rising middle-class power and the adaptation of the landed interest. Large industrial cities were growing with a rapidity unmatched by the development of welfare and health arrangements. To serious observers both at home and abroad Britain seemed to have embarked upon a dangerous experiment. The 1830 and then the 1848 revolutions in various European capitals provided a warning of what Britain might also face. The novelty of Britain’s economic position brought other unprecedented situations into prominence. Never had a society been so urbanised. Never before had the poor been so segmented into their own quarters and thus uncontrolled by the close gaze of their social superiors. As the numbers of the working class rose, so too did the perception of them as a threat. So much was unknown and a matter for conjecture. There were so few appropriate precedents. The old certainties were disappearing. New guidelines had not yet been established.


European Capital Standard Designation Large Industrial City Health Arrangement Irish Famine 
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© Michael Levin 1998

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  • Michael Levin

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