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Urban elites, socialists and notions of citizenship in an industrial boom town: Coventry c. 1870-1914

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The emergence of social citizenship schemes between 1870-1914 have largely been explained through the urban elites' increasing anxiety over poverty in the late nineteenth-century city. However, it is argued here that historians should reconceptualize social citizenship within broader parameters than have hitherto been set. This article will argue that in boom towns such as Coventry, schemes of social citizenship were developed to civilize a 'net,' type of worker who exhibited rather different characteristics than the traditional urban poor, According to some observers, the 'new' industries nurtured a semi-skilled worker who had little pride in his work or in civic affairs, was relatively affluent and consumption driven. The urban elite and socialists fiend common ground in their criticism of this 'new' worker and offered distinct schemes of social citizenship as a solution to the 'problem'. The cultural construction of the 'deviant' worker also proved a useful deflection from the urban elites' and socialists' own deficiencies, particularly in their inability to engage in any meaningful way with the citizens they had endeavoured to 'improve'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
JournalLabour History Review
Volume69
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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