Fatherhood in Victorian Times
A new study concludes that Victorian men were the original hands-on father, far from their image as distant and severe.
Dr Julie-Marie Strange, a social historian based at Manchester University has just written a book, “Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865-1914″, published by Cambridge University Press. She read 250 autobiographies from people who grew up in the period, and scoured musical hall lyrics, advertising, and pamphlets from the cheap press, containing stories.
But she said much of the social history the period carried the same assumptions partly because they relied on contemporary commentaries written by middle class social reformers with an agenda to “improve” the working class.
More recently, the study of the history of the family has been written from the perspective of women’s history in which men were viewed as the “negative embodiment of the patriarchy”, she explained.
Negative stereotypes are not always accurate:
She said she found almost no examples of children being severely beaten by fathers – a staple of the popular caricature of Victorian family life.
There were, however, several examples mothers effectively inventing the idea of their father’s discipline as a threat to keep in them line.