In Search of Britain Seminar

Date / time: 16 March, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

In Search of Britain Seminar


The next session of the In Search of Britain seminar will be held online on Wednesday 16 March from 5:00-6:30 pm (CET). We will welcome Stefanie Shackleton (University of Texas at Austin) for a presentation entitled “Nothing if Not Resourceful: Working-Class Respectability and Informal Learning”. The seminar programme can be found at:


In the 1850s and 1860s, educational resources, like useful knowledge books and periodicals as well as libraries, reading rooms, and mechanics institutes, were just becoming more widely available in more areas of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Laborers and artisans had new opportunity in this period to articulate ideas about what learning and respectability meant not only amongst themselves in their communities, but in interactions with more privileged classes. They campaigned for additional resources, sought to have more control of their learning, and they used their own conceptions of respectability in those discussions. Though respectability was influenced by middle-class discourse and language, working-class conceptions of it were both in conversation and conflict with middle-class ideas, and the underlying motivations and pragmatic applications were wholly their own. This discussion explores ways that working-class men and women articulated their own conceptions of respectability in the period, as new learning opportunities and avenues for expression of those ideas expanded. We will also examine a case study of a working-class British woman, whose words and documented experiences provide examples of the differences in the articulation of respectability and its benefits from a working-class perspective, throughout her vocal and interesting life.

To register for this event, please visit:


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