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Vol . I I s s u e No . 2 J u l y 2 0 1 3

Uni v e r s i t yofS ou t hWa l e sS t u de ntHi s t or yJ ou r na l

Edi t e db yMa r i aDy k e s , Ce r i Ca r t e r S a mEv a ns&S a ma nt haRi c k a r ds

Editorial Team Lead Editors Maria Dykes Ceri Carter Co-Editors Sam Evans Samantha Rickards Special Thanks Kris Carter

Contents Editorial Ceri Carter & Maria Dykes


The Migration of British Copperworkers to Chilean Smelting Works c.18301880 Adam Godfrey


The Colour of Money: The Creation of Racism as a Justification for Atlantic Slavery Darren Macey


The Utopian Quest, the 'High-Water Mark' and its Ultimate Failure: Movement, National Identity and Counter-Culture in the American Road Genre Sam Evans


Reflections of Modern Political and Cultural Agendas in Screen Representations of Elizabeth I Kimberley Davies


'It certainly wasn't one of us!': How Victorian Press Coverage of the Whitechapel Murders Show how Important 'Otherness' was in Structuring Visions of Social Order Samantha Rickards


'The Triumph of the "Sanitary Idea" in Urban South Wales was Merely a Commonsense Response to a Filthy Urban Environment': A Discussion Maria Dykes


Conference Report: 'Berlin, Paris, London and Beyond - Ongoing Projects, Forthcoming Events and Future Publications' - One-day Communism Studies Seminar Ceri Carter


Editorial Croeso and welcome to the second issue of the History from the Forest journal. We have had a fantastic response from students wanting to feature their work in the journal and collectively the hard work of these authors and the editors has resulted in a really great second issue. The first article featured in this edition has been submitted by PhD student, Adam Godfrey. Godfrey discusses the influence that British immigrants in Chile during the nineteenth century had on the Chilean copper industry, particularly those from the Swansea area. Staying with the theme of the Atlantic, undergraduate, Darren Macey explores the issue of Atlantic slavery, specifically examining the juxtaposition between the rise of capitalism and the growth of racism. From travelling across the Atlantic Ocean to travelling across the United States, postgraduate student, Sam Evans delivers a cultural history paper focusing on representations of counterculture movements and their ideologies in the American Road Genre. Remaining in the realms of cultural history, undergraduate, Kimberley Davies presents a paper analysing screen representations of Queen Elizabeth I and the extent to which period dramas actually relate to modern political and cultural agendas. From period drama to melodrama, Jack the Ripper stars in Samantha Rickards' tale of nineteenth century London. Undergraduate student, Rickards analyses the theme of 'otherness' in association with the accusations surrounding the infamous Whitechapel murders. Continuing with the period of the nineteenth century, postgraduate student, Maria Dykes discusses Edwin Chadwick’s ‘sanitary idea’ and examines whether they were a sensible and logical development. Dykes specifically focuses on the ‘sanitary idea’ in urban South Wales. Finally, postgraduate student, Ceri Carter takes the journal in a different direction with a report on the Communist Studies conference organised by Dr Norry LaPorte, held at the University in March of this year. Thank you for your continued support, we hope you enjoy the issue. Ceri Carter & Maria Dykes Lead Editors


The Migration of British Copperworkers to Chilean Smelting Works c.1830-1880 By Adam Godfrey The development of the copper industry in the Swansea region in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries greatly influenced the Welsh experience of industrialisation. During this period the copperworks around Swansea constituted 70% of the total copper-producing capacity of the UK.1 This incredible concentration of one industry in such a small geographic region enabled Swansea smelters to project their influence around the world. It is important for historians to consider the wider impact that the Swansea copper industry had outside of the UK. Swansea was at the centre of an international trading network based on the movement of copper. The demands of the copper industry in Swansea (along with lesser copper producing regions in the UK such as Liverpool) were responsible for the development of numerous overseas regions, including the copper-producing areas of Chile. This article will examine some aspects of how the copper-smelting industry developed in Chile, as well as looking at the copperworkers who migrated with the industry. From 1844 to 1879 the copper trade was the fastest growing sector of the Chilean economy before it was overtaken by the nitrate industry. During this period copper accounted for 42.3% of the total value of exports from Chile. The expansion of smelting activity in Chile was vital in developing the economy further as it allowed for greater retention of the wealth generated by mining activity. 2 From 1850 to 1878 Chile was the largest copper producer in the world accounting for 36% of global copper mine production (though Britain was still the largest producer of smelted copper), and this period also coincides with the development of copper smelting in Chile.3 Before 1830 copper smelting techniques in Chile were primitive - usually two or three firings in a basic blast furnace, the first firing reduced the ore to regulus of c.50% purity, whilst the final firing produced bars of c.90% fine copper. Chileans knew the basic principles of smelting but lacked the ability to apply this knowledge to a large -scale, economically viable production method. 4 By the mid-nineteenth century it was obvious that Chile possessed abundant supplies of copper, and that R. O. Roberts 'The Smelting Of Non-Ferrous Metals since 1750' in G. Williams (ed.), Glamorgan County Historian, Vol.5 (1980), 47-95 (p.48). 2 Luis Valenzuela, ‘The Chilean Copper Smelting Industry In The Mid-Nineteenth Century: Phases Of Expansion And Stagnation, 1834-58’, Journal Of Latin American Studies, 24.3 (1992), 507-550 (p507). 3 Luis Valenzuela, ‘The Copper Smelting Company ‘Uremeneta y Errazuriz’ of Chile: An Economic Profile, 1860-1880’, The Americas, 53.2 (1996), 235-271 (pp.235-236). 4 Valenzuela, ‘The Chilean Copper Smelting Industry’, p.510. 1


the key to developing an effective native smelting industry was the diffusion of advanced technology and production techniques from Swansea. Luis Valenzuela has argued that the vital introduction of modern smelting techniques occurred in the 1830s as Charles Lambert introduced reverberatory furnaces, and along with his smelter David ‘Luis’ (Valenzuela implies that his real name was David Lewis, which one could speculate indicates a Welsh connection) introduced a new method of treating regulus.5 Valenzuela is keen to emphasis the importance of Charles Lambert as the individual who modernised copper smelting in Chile, by purposefully setting out to replicate European smelting techniques.6 In 1840 Lambert travelled to Swansea and sought the help of the Bath family (who were copper merchants and ship owners), who supplied Lambert with firebricks, coal, coke, and machinery for smelting in Chile.7 Lambert’s Compania smelting works along with the works of Mexican and South American Co. at Herradura were both equipped with the latest technology from Swansea, which at that time was the world leader in copper smelting.8 This suggests that the key to the growth of copper smelting in Chile was the introduction of the ‘English (i.e. Welsh) principle’ of smelting.9 This demonstrates the importance of the spread of technical knowledge from Swansea to Chile. At that time the copper industry in Swansea was a world leader in terms of technological development, and Swansea was ideally placed to export this technology being well served by shipping companies from around the world. However, new technology could not simply be shipped to Chile, it needed to be implemented by skilled workers well versed in how to operate it. Parties of British workers were recruited by smelting works in Chile to oversee new smelting techniques. In 1847 the Mexican and South American Co. sent a complement of smelters and materials to their Herradura works, and amongst those who migrated were a works manager, a chemist, a blacksmith, a carpenter, two masons, a refiner and fourteen smelters.10 Clearly a wide variety of workers were needed to implement new smelting processes. These same workers also played a crucial role in developing one of the largest smelting plants in Chile - the Guayacan Works owned by the firm Urmeneta y Errazuriz. The Guayacan works were built c.1856 in Herradura bay in the province of Coquimbo, and by 1858 the site contained 21 furnaces producing 702 tonnes of copper bars and ingots per annum (the apex of Ibid., p.511. Ibid., pp.511-512; for further accounts of Charles Lambert’s activities see Claudio Veliz, ‘Egana, Lambert, And The Chilean Mining Association Of 1825’, The Hispanic American Historical Review, 55.4 (1975), 637-663. 7 Valenzuela, ‘The Chilean Copper Smelting Industry’, p.524. 8 Ibid., p.523. 9 Ibid., pp.542-543. 10 Ibid., p.523. 5 6


production at Guayacan was reached in 1869 when 11,377 tonnes of copper bars and ingots were produced).11 The key to the high level of production at the Guayacan works was the recruitment of a number of highly skilled workers from the Herradura works of the rival Mexican and South American Co. These workers enabled the implementation of the advanced ‘Napier’s improved process’ at Guayacan. 12 Many of the skilled workers were British, including the former manager of the Mexican and South American Co. works, Robert Edward Allison. Around fifty British workers were employed at Guayacan along with 250 native Chileans. A letter from John Buchanan the (British) manager of the Guayacan works to the British consul in Coquimbo stated that the British workers lived in good quality housing and were paid between £12 to £30 a month and according to their skill level they also received free coal, water and medical care.13 This shows the importance of migrant workers to the establishment of a modern smelting industry in Chile, and the significance of these British workers is reflected in the wages and services that Chilean employers were willing to provide to attract and maintain this workforce. The migration of British workers to Chile represented a wide sample of different skills; alongside smelters there were carpenters, masons, engine drivers and miners. Figures from 1865 show that the largest single occupation group was seamen, and that other major migrant occupation groups were merchants, carpenters, miners, engineers, artisans and smelters. 14 From this pattern it is obvious that British migrants were overwhelmingly motivated by economic factors. As you would expect males made up the majority of the British population in Chile, women never accounted for more than a quarter of the British population.15 The gravestones of British migrants interred at the English cemetery in Coquimbo corroborate this demographic trend; there are a number of graves belonging to single men under forty years of age from places like Cornwall and Cwmavon. This clearly indicates a significant presence of single male workers, who left industrial regions where copper mining/smelting were predominant. Although, there are also examples of graves whereby family members have migrated together, usually brother or a husband and wife This suggests that there were some examples of familial and chain migration occurring, and in this respect Welsh

Valenzuela, ‘The Copper Smelting Company ‘Uremeneta y Errazuriz’, pp.242-244. Ibid., p.247. 13 Ibid., p.246. 14 John Mayo, British Merchants And Chilean Development, 1851-1886, (Boulder, 1986), p.12 & p.129. 15 John Mayo, ‘The British Communities In Nineteenth-Century Chile: Engagement And Isolation’, in O. Marshall (ed.), English Speaking Communities In Latin America, (London, 2000), pp.180-203 (p.183). 11 12


migration to Chile followed a similar pattern to Welsh migration to the USA.16 John Mayo, who has written extensively on British migrants in Latin America, has argued that the British communities were close-knit because of the shared experience of being strangers in a foreign land. He also states that British migrants did not live in segregated communities, but that they lived near each other when circumstances permitted it. Britons were concentrated by their skills and wealth in certain sectors of the economy, and found that these same factors determined where they lived, and as a result the British tended to accumulate in groups in towns or districts.17 An excellent example of this is Guayacan where the smelters lived together in accommodation provided by Urmeneta y Errazuriz. Mayo also emphasises that these migrants retained a British identity and sought to replicate key institutions like schools and churches in Chile. An example of how this identity was maintained through improvisation by British copperworkers in Guayacan can be seen in the use of Robert Edward Allison’s house for religious services, including a number of (legally questionable) marriages in the 1850s. 18 These copperworkers wished to continue practising their own faith and rituals in an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and lacking a designated space they utilised the accommodation that was available to them, in this case the largest house in the neighbourhood. The experience of British migrants varied greatly and so it is hard to speak of a generalised experience. The gravestones of those migrants buried in the English cemetery reveal an incredible and diverse range of experiences. The gravestone of John and Jane Bawden records the death of six of their children, many of whom died in childhood. The Bawdens are one of many families who suffered the loss of a young child, and this suggests that there were high rates of infant mortality in Coquimbo (and whilst, by our standards, there were high rates of infant mortality in contemporary South Wales, the numbers of childhood deaths across the socio-economic spectrum, and amongst such a small population is obvious), which in turn indicates limited access to adequate medical care. The Bawden gravestone lists where each child died, and this is interesting as many of the deaths occur in regions where copper mining and smelting were prominent. For example two children died in Coquimbo, one in Copiapo and another in Tamaya. This suggests that there may have been a high level of internal mobility amongst British migrants employed in the copper industry in Chile.

Edward George Hartmann, Americans From Wales, (New York, 1978) p.68; Anne Kelly Knowles, Calvinists Incorporated - Welsh Immigrants On Ohio's Industrial Frontier, (Chicago, 1997) p.27-28; Daniel Jenkins Williams, One Hundred Years of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism in America, (Philadelphia, 1937) p.128. 17 Mayo, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The British Communities In Nineteenth-Century Chileâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, in Marshall (ed.), p.194. 18 <> [accessed 3 July 2013]. 16


Mayo also argued that the children of British migrants maintained their British identity, and that later generations fought for Britain in the two world wars.19 This is supported by the experience of the MacAuliffe family. John MacAuliffe was born in Swansea in 1867, and emigrated to Chile to start a shipping firm (This firm still exists and it is now a multi-national logistics company based in Valparaiso).20 Though strictly not a copperworker, MacAuliffe was a prominent figure in the British community in Coquimbo, and he and his wife Edith had seven children, one of whom, Sergeant Norman MacAuliffe died serving in the RAF during the Second World War.21 There are numerous other examples of a British identity being maintained in subsequent generations of migrant offspring. At the English Cemetery there are a number of gravestones belonging to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of British migrants, and up until the 1960/1970s many of the headstones are still engraved in English. This suggests that the language persevered amongst subsequent generations for quite some time, though the combination of Spanish and Welsh names on the headstones suggests a degree of assimilation. The gravestones of British migrants also reveal at least once instance of return migration to Swansea. James Trevena was born in Cornwall, and he died at La Serena (a city neighbouring Coquimbo) in 1856. His gravestone shows that his wife Elizabeth Travena and their daughter, also called Elizabeth, must have travelled to Swansea after his death, as Jamesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; gravestone documents the demise and burial of his daughter Elizabeth Travena at Cockitt Churchyard in 1859. This implies that there was a great deal of communication back and forth between Swansea and Chile, as the death of James Travenaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s daughter is recorded on his headstone three years after his own death. This could indicate the existence of an advanced Cymric-Chilean network in the latter-half of the nineteenth century. Further indicators of this existence are revealed in the makers mark on the headstones themselves. Many of the gravestones were carved by stonemasons in and around Swansea, such as Bowen Bros. of Neath or R. Rogers of Swansea. These headstone also provide evidence of good communication links between Swansea and Chile, as the customer would have to send their order to the stonemason, who would then carve the headstone before it was shipped back to Chile. It is possible to speculate that these headstones, some of which are very large and ornate, were even used as ballast in an outward-bound copper barque. This demonstrates that not Mayo, British Merchants, p.17. See <> [accessed 3 July 2013]. 21 Norman MacAuliffe served in the RAF Volunteer Reserve, he died on the 21st July 1942 from injuries he sustained when his Bristol Blenheim aircraft two days previous. He is buried at the Habbaniya War Cemetery in Iraq; They Served Wiki, <> [accessed 3 July 2013]; Commonwealth War Graves Commission, <,%20NORMAN> [accessed 3 July 2013]. 19 20


all the migrants who travelled to Chile remained there, some returned back to Britain. Whilst the ordering of gravestones from Swansea stonemasons implies that there was a closeness, and a considerable amount of communication and exchange between the Swansea and the copper-producing regions of Chile. In conclusion the diffusion of technical knowledge from Swansea was a key factor in the development of copper smelting in Chile, and to an extent, had this diffusion had an important impact upon the Chilean economy in general. To ensure the successful implementation of the latest smelting procedures, a considerable number of British migrants skilled in copper working were required. The importance of these British workers was reflected in the efforts that employers based in Chile went to in order to attract and maintain these workers in sufficient numbers. These migrants were economically motivated, and mostly comprised of skilled male workers. These workers formed their own communities, though their location and layout was often dictated by the demands of the copper industry. The migrants maintained a high degree of their national identity and made efforts to cater to their own needs such as religious provision. This conscious recognition of being British was passed on to subsequent generations and was still a potent force well into the 1940s, if not later still. Furthermore it is clear that these migrants were not isolated British enclaves on the other side of the world, strong links were maintained between these communities in and those in Swansea.


The Colour of Money: The Creation of Racism as a Justification for Atlantic Slavery ‘Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters’. ~African Proverb.1 By Darren Macey The Atlantic slave trade spanned almost three hundred and fifty years and caused the death or displacement of twelve and a half million people. Beginning early in the sixteenth century, the Atlantic slave trade would continue to thrive until the second half of the nineteenth century with the last recorded passage to the Americas as late as 1866.2 The vast profits generated by the slave trade would build cities, nations and empires. But how could the institution of slavery survive through the Enlightenment and the age of revolutions which espoused concepts of freedom and equality?3 This paper explores the dual development of the modern concepts of capitalism and racism, of the economic pressures and political convenience that made Africa the source of slaves for the wider Atlantic world and saw the inception of racism. The template for European exploitation of Africans as slave labour in the Americas was set almost from the first Columbian contact. In the fifteen years following the Spanish arrival on Hispaniola in 1492, the indigenous Taino population fell from an estimated level of up to one million to only 60,000.4 Dominican priest, Bartolome da las Casas appealed on the behalf of the Indian populations to the Spanish crown, suggesting that the ‘more robust (constitution of) Negroes’ 5 would be better suited to the American climate and Spanish labor requirements. Charles V of Spain agreed and with his authorization, Spain exported 15,000 slaves to San Domingo in 1517. Las Casas’ misguided act of compassion was an early example of racial


Elvis Ngonga, ‘Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters’, South Dakota Oral History Centre, <> [accessed 3 March 2013]. 2 David Eltis, ‘A Brief Overview of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade’, Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database <> [accessed 28 February 2013]. 3 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (New York: Perigee Books, 1980). 4 C.L.R James, The Black Jacobins; Toussaint L’ouverture and The San Domingo Revolution, (Toronto: Random House Canada, 1989), p.3. 5 C.L.R. James as quoted in Pete Alexander, Racism, Resistance and Revolution (London: Bookmarks, 1987), p.5. 8

stratification in an Atlantic context. These ideas of racial stratification would play a major part in both the inception and the justification of the Atlantic Slave trade. The institution of slavery itself can be traced back to antiquity, C.L.R. James pointed to colour blindness in pre-Columbian ideas of social stratification. He maintained ‘the ancient Greeks and Romans knew nothing about race. They had another standard, civilized and barbarian’.6 Rather than racial discrimination, there was a tradition of discrimination towards ethnic groups, if they refused to be assimilated. This ideology could be considered ‘culturalism’;7 these societies were inclusive of ethnic or racial backgrounds, but insistent on conformity within their cultural structure. Slavery was therefore not associated with ethnicity and could be reversed in a generation. Examples of the reversals of social standing can be seen in culturalism; there were instances of converts from Judaism becoming medieval bishops and Ottoman generals who were born Christian.8 Early Muslim and Christian conceptions of slavery were based on the premises of culturalism. They tended to enslave from the edges of/ or outside their society’s culture and religion but this was not based on race. Later racial conceptions of slavery saw a predisposition for enslavement by a slave’s lineage.9 The tradition of enslaving outsiders encouraged Christians to follow the Muslims example and look to the sub-Sahara region as a source for slaves. Olaudah Equiano’s account in 1789 of his enslavement, from his capture to his eventual freedom, highlights the differences in European and African traditions of slavery. He describes his journey to the slave ship and his repeated sale. Equiano describes being sold to an African ‘Chieftain’ who brought him into the family ‘African style’.10 In the African society slaves were almost an extension of the family group. 11 Slavery could be initiated for various reasons as a punishment, as a way of dealing with prisoners of war or even voluntary enslavement. As Equiano journeyed to the coast his status was transposed from a victim of kidnapping to an African style slave and finally into chattel.12 He became removed from the normal conceptions of society, de-humanized and seen as a commodity. This transposition into chattel, from the


Ibid. George M. Fredrickson, Racism A Short History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002) p.7. 8 Ibid. p.7. 9 Joyce E. Chaplin, ‘Race’, in The British Atlantic world 1500-1800, ed. by David Armitage, Michael J. Braddick, et al (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2002) p. 158. 10 Marcus Rediker, The Slave Ship, The Human History (London: John Murray, 2007), pp. 108-115. 11 Ibid., p.115. 12 Dr Molefi Kete Asante, ‘The ideological origins of chattel slavery in the British world’, International Slavery Museum, <> [accessed 28 February 2013]. 7


contemporary African and European perspectives provided a politically acceptable source of slaves. The slave trade itself worked in economic rather than racial terms; social standing was not defined by colour. Africans could be viewed as commodities or businessmen, on an equal footing with European merchants. Contemporary accounts support these assertions; in a letter dated 1783 Egboyoung Offeong, a slave agent from Old Calabar requests changes to the incoming English cargo to maximize his profits.13 The language of the letter conveys a friendly business relationship. Offeong closes his letter ‘I wish no more war for England, I am your dear Egboyoung Offeong’. Other examples can be sited from the European perspective, Captain Earle of the slave ship, The Chesterfield, in his letter of instruction on 22 May 1751 is asked to use his ‘prudent management with the natives and ships in the your trade for the best interest’; illustrating a slave ship investors respect for the business practices of the African Traders. 14 African merchants were considered as having good business acumen by their European counterparts. This contrasts with the use of Christian doctrine to depict Africans as the prodigy of Ham, fit only for servitude. ‘Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be’.15 This passage from Genesis 9:18-27 was used to support the concept of an African predisposition for service, it become a convenient political justification for and cited in defense of economic enslavement. This form of justification supports Eric Williams’ contention that ‘Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.’ 16 Williams’ and fellow West Indian historian, C.L.R James’ conventional interpretation; that there was an absence of negative conceptions of Africans in the ancient world, is underpinned by the research of classical historians.17 However, this ignores other important historical links in the development of slavery in the Atlantic sense. While there were no direct associations with an African predisposition for slavery, Africans had been associated since the Roman era with physical prowess and resistance


‘Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Document Reference TCC/273: Letter from Egboyoung Offeong’, International Slavery Museum, <> [accessed 16 February 2013}. 14 ‘Maritime Archives and Library: The Davenport Papers’, International Slavery Museum, <> [accessed 3 February 2013]. 15 Mark A. Noll ,The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006) <> [accessed 16 February 2013]. 16 Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, p.7. 17 Research conducted by Frank Snowden, George M. Fredrickson, Racism, A Short History, p.17. 10

to disease.18 This association was accentuated in the psyche of Mediterranean Europeans by the devastation and de-population of the Black Death, and by the high mortality rates in Europeans compared to Africans in sub-tropical conditions. This link between African physical prowess and resistance to disease would lead Las Casas to make the connections and conclude that Africans would be the answer to labor shortages in the New World.19 The introduction of smallpox by an African slave on a Spanish expedition led by Panfilo de Narvaez to the Americas came in 1520.20 Disease decimated Amerindian populations; the Aztec population for example, plummeted from 26 million to little over 1.6 million by 1620.21 This gave rise to European conceptions of a natural racial hierarchy. Africans were depicted as strong, hardy yet intellectually backward; and the indigenous American population were seen as weak. Sixteenth century Europeans, in particular Iberians, perceived themselves as chosen by God to convert and rule the Americas. Evolving racial boundaries and seemingly ‘biblical’ judgements through disease only seemed to confirm their assumptions of religious and later racial supremacy. This new ideology, together with other concepts; African traditions of enslavement, African physiology and the beginnings of religious justification of African enslavement as the prodigy of Ham; gave rise to a politically acceptable form of slavery. This image of Africans as bestial, later evolved into an insipid form of racial exploitation which depicted Africans as childlike and incapable. This was used as a political justification, particularly in the pre-civil war American southern states. In a letter to his wife, Robert E. Lee the future commander of The Confederate Forces, explains the growing ideology in the southern states. ‘The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & [sic] physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race’.22 Lee’s perceptions of race were widely held within the educated classes in the southern states of America and were indicative of the schism slavery caused within the United States of America from the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The friction between the southern states who 18

Chaplin, Armitage, Braddick, The British Atlantic world 1500-1800, p.160. Dr Molefi Kete Asante, ‘The ideological origins of chattel slavery in the British world’, International Slavery Museum, <> [accessed 28 February 2013]. 20 Dr. Carlos Franco-Paredes, ‘The Spanish Royal Philanthropic Expedition to Bring Smallpox Vaccination to the New World and Asia in the 19th Century’, Clinical Infections Diseases, 41.9 (2005) 12851289, <> [accessed 31 January 2013]. 21 Dr. Carlos Franco-Paredes, ‘The Spanish Royal Philanthropic Expedition to Bring Smallpox Vaccination to the New World and Asia in the 19th Century’, Clinical Infections Diseases, 41.9 (2005) 12851289, <> [accessed 31 January 2013]. 22 ‘Letter to his wife on slavery ( selections; December 27,1856) by Robert E. Lee’, Fair Use Repository, <> [accessed 1 March 2013]. 19


were unwilling to abandon their slave based plantation economy and the growing abolition movement in the northern states led inexorably to civil war and the American Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The Declaration of Independence insistence that ‘all men are created equal’ did not extend to the thousands of slaves within its new borders. A clause which sought to condemn the institution of slavery was deleted to appease the southern slave economies and slave owners within the signatories of the declaration including the future first president George Washington. He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & [sic] carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & [sic] sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.23 The condemnation in the clause of the British role in the development of the slave trade alludes to the tremendous advances made by the British merchant classes in refining the triangular trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas. The portability and expendability of African slaves in the eyes of Europeans was demonstrated across the Atlantic system. It is, however, the production of sugar which commands the greatest attention in relation to European exploitation of Africans as slaves in an Atlantic context. Williams’s controversial thesis, Capitalism and Slavery in 1944, argued that the economic power of African slave labour in the West Indian plantation system was the reason for English economic success.24 This conclusion supports the contention that an economic benefit was the major motivation for African slavery. The demographic impact


‘The deleted slave-trade clause in Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, 1776’, National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox, <> [accessed 18 May 2013]. 24 Williams, Capitalism and Slavery. 12

of the slave trade over the period from 1451to 1820 had a direct correlation to the economic success and migration of the plantation system of sugar production.25 Beginning at São Tomé in the early part of the sixteenth century, the Atlantic saw a series of Sugar Revolutions. São Tomé’s sugar plantations were a testing ground for the use of African slaves in sugar production. The Portuguese searching for similar climatic conditions exported São Tomé‘s techniques to Pernambuco and Bahia in Brazil from 1575.26 The Dutch-Portuguese War 1630 to 1654 saw the capture and recapture of Pernambuco and Bahia; 27 precipitating the spread of sugar production, as Portuguese and Dutch refugees took their knowledge of sugar production to the West Indies. 28 The influx in African slave labour which accompanied the spread of the sugar plantation system precipitated a massive change in the racial demographic in the West Indies. Jamaica’s population of 1500 slaves of an ethnic African origin within a population of 6000 in 1658 had by 1746 grown to 112,500 in a total population of 122,500. Williams maintained that the introduction of sugar into the West Indies was crucial for the industrialization of Britain and that the move away from slave labor was the main reason for abolition. His economic argument the ‘decline thesis’29 describes the abolition of the slave trade as a result of free labour offering a more cost effective unit of production. This theory of higher productivity levels in a free work force was introduced into mainstream economics by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations in 1776.30 Seymour Drescher’s, Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition a rebuttal of Williams work, argued that the slave economies were still successful at the time of abolition and the propaganda and public opinion of the British public were indeed a major factor in the abolition of the slave trade.31 The few African accounts of the middle passage from Africa to the Americas including Equiano’s account helped to change perceptions of Africans and exposed the horrors of the slave trade to a wider public. However the numbers making the middle passage continued to increase throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centauries.


Herbert S. Klein The Atlantic Slave Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp.210-211. James Walvin, The Slave Trade (London: Thames& Hudson, 2011), pp.33-45. 27 Ibid. 28 Klein, The Atlantic Slave Trade, pp.210-211. 29 Williams, Capitalism and Slavery 30 Eamonn Butler, The Condensed Wealth of Nations and The Incredibly Condensed Theory of Moral Sentiments (2011), <> [accessed 15 January 2013]. 31 Seymour Drescher, Econocide: British Slavery in the Era of Abolition, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press), P. Xxi. 26


The huge disparity between free white and black slave populations in the Americas resulted in an increasingly draconian response form the European powers. In an effort to control slave populations Europeans introduced slave codes or laws including; the French ‘Code noir’ 32 or black code issued by Louis XIV in 1685 and various English Colonial Laws,33 concerning slaves from 1629. These practices began to introduce early racial connotations into the justice system. Blacks, Indians and whites started to receive different treatment in law. However, early laws including March 1660to 166134 suggest a class struggle between slaves/ indentured servants and their owners/masters. It stipulates punishments for joint runaways. The indentured servant would have the slave’s time as well as their own added to their service. These links between blacks and whites as individuals can be seen throughout the slave trade confounding the efforts to portray an image of racial slavery. The role of a common sailor was open to black or white. Instances of blacks working as seamen were fairly common and slaves were routinely trained to operate the ship due to the high mortality rate among white seamen from disease and mistreatment. Echoed in the words of slave trade veteran James Field Stanfield;35 who witnessed the horrors of the middle passage at first hand; he asserted that there was no discrimination in the Slave ship Captains violence to both sailors and slaves alike. Pallied or Black – the free or fetter’d hand,Fall undistinguish’d by his ruffian hand, Nor age’s awe, nor sex’s softness charm; Nor law, nor feeling, stop his blood-steep’d arm.36 In 1860 The Clotilda landed her human “cargo” of 110 Africans in Alabama, 37 over fifty years since the end of the slave trade, almost a hundred years since The Declaration of Independence, in the ‘land of the free’. The metamorphosis from cultural and economic slavery into racism came as a result of the need to create an ideology to justify the staggering scope of African 32

Translated by John Garrigus, ‘The Code Noir 1685 Source: Le Code Noir ou recueil des reglements rendus jusqu’s present (Paris: Prault, 1767) (1980 reprd. By the Societe, d’Histoire de la Guadeloupe)’ < 02/code%20noir.pdf> [accessed 01 March 2013]. 33 ‘Laws on Indentured Servants’, Virtual Jamestown, <> [accessed 21 February 2013]. 34 ‘Laws on Indentured Servants’, Virtual Jamestown, <> [accessed 21 February 2013]. 35 Rediker, The Slave Ship, The Human History, pp. 132-156. 36 James Field Stanfield 1749-1824, the equality of violence, on a slave ship, in Rediker, The Slave Ship, The Human History, p.149. 37 ‘Dreams of Africa in Alabama’, Sylviane Anna Diouf, < _of_the_last_a_58311.htm> [accessed 4 February 2013]. 14

Atlantic slavery. Racism is a creation of the Atlantic World, a political justification of the horrors inflicted on Africans at the inception of capitalism and globalization. Bertrand Russell sums up the duality in the Atlantic creations of liberty and slavery: Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.38 Possibly the greatest historical example of Russell's assertion, the Atlantic slave trade was not driven by racism but by economic pressures. There few contemporary African accounts of the middle passage from Africa to the Americas but Equiano’s moving first-hand account helped to change perceptions of Africans and exposed the horrors of the slave trade to a wider public. The twentieth century saw Afro-Caribbean historians, Williams and James in the nineteen thirties and the nineteen forties put forward contentious theories on economic exploitation of Africa as a means of maintaining global European dominance. Fellow West Indian historian Walter Rodney continued this theme detailing the European exploitation of Africa through the colonial period to the time of the completion his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa in 1973. However contentious their theories were at the time they were published and still remain today, their importance lays in the debate they sparked, a debate on slavery from an African perspective. It provides one interpretation of a ‘lions’ history of the slave trade.39 Atlantic history is littered with speeches exalting conceptions of equality and freedom but there is often a racial duality in these concepts. The deleted ‘anti-slavery ‘clause of the Declaration of Independence is an excellent example of the pragmatism of politicians in the face of Atlantic slave economics. The Socioeconomic development in the Atlantic basin saw the convergence of the four continents into a co-dependent, symbiotic political and economic entity. Coupled with the new developing racial theories, it gave each of the continents in political, economic and social terms a different role to fulfill in this new Atlantic system. Europe saw itself as the fulcrum of civilization; religion, power, and their racial perceptions dictated the lives of the other Atlantic peoples. Due to the decimation of their populations by disease the Amerindians were depicted as 38

‘Quotation by Bertrand Russell’,, <> [accessed 4 February 2013] . 39 Walter Rodney writing in 1973 attacked the continuing exploitation of Africa by Europe in through the colonial period of European African empires, Walter Rodney, ‘How Europe under developed Africa’, <> [accessed 04 February 2013]; Elvis Ngonga, ‘Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters’, South Dakota Oral History Centre, <> [accessed 3 March 2013]. 15

neither capable nor fit to exploit the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;emptyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; spaces and the massive mineral resources of the Americas. This perceived weakness was also used as a justification for European expansionism. In this Atlantic equation Africans were seen as unintelligent and the bestial and source of portable slave labour. While the motivation for Atlantic slavery was predominantly economic, racism provided both its political justification and is its legacy. Perhaps the most important colour in any discussion of Atlantic racism is the colour of money.


The Utopian Quest, the ‘High-Water Mark’ and its Ultimate Failure: Movement, National Identity and Counter-Culture in the American Road Genre By Sam Evans America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956. I can’t stand my own mind. America when will we end human war? Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb. I don’t feel good don’t bother me. I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind. America when will you be angelic? When will you take off your clothes? When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites? America why are your libraries full of tears? America when will you send your eggs to India? I’m sick of your insane demands. […] It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway. America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel. ●

‘America’ by Allen Ginsburg. Berkeley, 1956.1

Above are the opening stanza and last three lines of a poem written by a man who along with Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Lucien Carr and William Burroughs, were the incarnations of a movement that Kerouac himself coined ‘the Beat Generation’ – a group of writers and thinkers ‘beaten’ into exhaustion, resentment and disassociation by their country's – or as was the case of Kerouac, his adopted country’s increasingly conservative society. A society that upheld and 1

Allen Ginsberg, 'America', Howl and Other Poems, (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1959), p.39. 17

celebrated values, or ‘Eisenhower conformities’, characterised as unmerciful consumerism, objectionable societal immorality and a foreign policy of subjugation – the zeitgeist of opposition to this being fervidly and celestially penned by Ginsburg in his poetry. The response of this generation to their predicament, initially based around Columbia University in New York, is articulated by Carr as ‘a rebellious group’ who were ‘trying to look at the world in a way that gave it some (new) meaning. Trying to find values…that were valid’.2 An ideology he expressed as a ‘new vision’, the antithesis of their perception of American society. Their consequent quest was one of discovery, assisted by expanding their consciousness through the use of newly available drugs, of a new way of life they could then record in narrative and which when disseminated, gripped the imagination of their nation and inspired future generations toward a higher plane of existence. Despite their counter-American-1950s-culture angst, it is intriguing to note that the quest these protagonists set for themselves was a literal one – a moving movement, if you like – through which they were paying homage to intrinsic parts of American identity, psyche and culture; the ideas of mobility, restlessness and freedom – typified as ‘the road’. Led by the restlessness of Cassady, their journeys – and subsequent representation in road literature and movies – would mobilize a highly political body that would supersede their own beat generation and be renowned throughout the globe as the ‘spirit of the sixties’. However, by 1971 a set of circumstances had occurred that lead to an observer and partaker in this superseding movement to look back upon their elevated pursuit and exclaim in his work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: We had all the momentum; we were riding on the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . . So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.3 Hunter Thompson observed that despite their momentum and moral high ground, the spirit had failed to translate into substantial social reform – or at least what changes did occur did not correlate entirely with the aims of the movement to the extent that they could deem it successful. The quest initiated by Ginsburg, Kerouac and the like, had failed. This article is concerned with that ‘high-water mark’ or near paradise. Or in other words, it is the point at which the ideological pursuits of counter-culture reach their peak and then subside. The aim of the article is to trace this theme throughout the literature of the road genre and attempt to draw a parallel trajectory of 2 3

Jack Kerouac, On the Road (New York: Penguin Classics, 2000), p.xi. Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (London: Harper Perennial, 2005), p.68. 18

societal context within fifties, sixties, seventies, and later America. However, before this is accomplished it is necessary first for the sake of lucidity to define what precisely this article means by ‘the road genre’ and its particular link to American history and culture. The chief concept of the road genre, and consequently why it grips the American populace’s imagination, is the idea of movement or mobility. It is a concept that is inherently moored with the idea of the ‘American Dream’ and found within the actualisation of pursuing this grandiose aim. How does one achieve the American Dream? One answer is through movement. There is no better definition, for the purposes of this essay, of the American Dream than the one provided by Thompson at the start of Fear and Loathing as the pretext to his trip: But our trip was different. It was the classic affirmation of everything that was right and true in the national character. It was a gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country – but only for those of true grit. And we were chock full of that.4 The key term here being ‘fantastic possibilities’. It is the idea that America as a land holds the possibility of freedom to pursue improvement and prosperity for all whom occupy it, but will only be realised by those who are robust and enterprising enough to actively pursue it. It is linked with the idea of ‘the pursuit of happiness’ – a pursuit that is predominately an economic one – which the fore-founders of the nation declared to be ‘self-evident’ and so imperative as to be included within the constitution. Movement as a key reality of this pursuit is the theme addressed by historian, Fredrick Jackson Turner in his 1893 work, The Frontier in American History more commonly known as the Frontier Thesis.5 Turner explores the effect of the closing of the western frontier in 1880, something that had up until that point had afforded American citizens the opportunity to move westward and create for themselves the possibility of wealth accumulation. For Turner, the frontier or movement, was the major defining characteristic of American history and therefore identity or national consciousness. He surmises that, ‘The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development’.


However objectionable Turners stance was regarding Native

Americans, within his thesis he nevertheless defines the notion of what the frontier or ‘the west’ idealises within the consciousness of the American citizen. The west represents the bounty of the land, prosperity and freedom – and the route to this utopia is the road. This is a comparison that has been paralleled by a preceding point in American history, notably the migration of European Ibid., p.18. Fredrick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1953). 6 Ibid., p.1. 4 5


peoples and their settlement in America, by many historians and also authors like John Steinbeck who notes in Travels with Charley: In Search of America, that those first settlers were the, ‘…restless ones, the wayward ones, who were not content to stay at home’.7 The idea of movement is an allencompassing factor of American history and identity, as Max J. Skidmore puts it, ‘Directly or indirectly it influenced everyone, from the elites to the dispossessed; its influence continues’.8 One way in which its influence continues within modern American society is through its cultural portrayal – the road genre. The emergence of the metaphor of the road has been traced to postwar society and is evidenced by Brent Bellamy through the poetry of Walt Whitman, the music of Bruce Springsteen and the literature of John Steinbeck.9 Their popularity he traces to their use of the adoption of working-class protagonists and the interplay of the notions of liberty and restriction – restriction found through Steinbeck and liberty through Whitman and can be further evidenced by the popularity of figures such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. It is interesting to note also the emergence of this popularity is during a time of relative prosperity compared to the pre-war depression – the American Dream is a more attainable eventuality in a country of economic stability after all. It is through these mediums; literature, music and later movies, that the road genre is born. The road genre does have multifaceted manifestations and an evolutionary nature but there are identifiable traits or common themes that can nearly always be found within; references to ‘the west’, the concept of movement, typically young disaffected characters – picaresque, representing and critiquing society, the search for an alternative, urban life versus rural life, to name but a few. By definition of these characteristics the road genre also offers a unique historical perspective through which to examine a society. It will consistently offer a counter-narrative to that of broad-based orthodox interpretations that focus upon large entities such as governmental policy. This conceptual standpoint is in line with that of Ganser, Puhringer and Rheindorf, who state in the context of movies in the road genre; In a way, then, we consider road movies from the standpoint of a ‘situational rhetoric’, in the sense of cultural studies’ commitment to contextualism, regarding texts (and genres no less) as articulations of a specific socio-historical context.10

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America (New York: Penguin, 1986), p.104. Max J. Skidmore, ‘Restless Americans: The Significance of Movement in American History (With a Nod to F.J. Turner), Turner)’, The Journal of American Culture, 34 (2011), 161-174. 9 Brent Bellamy, 'Tear into the Guts: Whitman, Steinbeck, Springsteen, and the Durability of Lost Souls on the Road', Canadian Review of American Studies, 41 (2011). 10 Alexandra Ganser, Julia Puhringer et al, 'Bakhtin’s Chronotope On The Road: Space, Time and Place in Road Movies Since the 1970s', FACTA UNIVERSITATIS Linguistics and Literature, 4.1 (2006). 7 8


It is with this framework in mind that this paper will examine the idea of the ‘high-water mark’ within the road genre at large and to seek to find its socio-historical context within the American experience. There is no greater source, nor starting point, than the book, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, a book which started the cogs of counter-culture in motion and gripped the imagination of a generation. William Burroughs once commented that, ‘After 1957 On the Road sold more than a million levis… and also sent countless kids on the road’11 which is testimony to the popularity of the work. It struck a chord with a generation who up until this point had only ever experienced a culture that reinforced patriarchal American family values. Under the leadership of President Eisenhower who was perceived as being an absentee leader, cultural figures of ‘men in grey flannel suits’ like Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men dominated and portrayed white middle-class men as the embodiment of the national character. Setting aside women, the poor and ethnic minorities who undoubtedly represented a large proportion of said nation – god forbid you be poor, female and Mexican. There were of course figures like James Dean who represented nonconformity, however, as M.J. Heale suggests, ‘… the images of a bland culture and a homogenous social order were paralleled in political life by a high degree of bipartisanship and an agreement on the broad contours of domestic and foreign policies’.12 However, the plights of the marginalised of American society were not going unnoticed as is exemplified by Ginsburg’s poem at the beginning of this paper. That group around Columbia recognised the injustices of their society and sought to find an alternative. Interestingly the homogeneity in the political sphere may have in fact aided contemporaries like Kerouac and company onto the road, insomuch as if there had been a political organisation through which they could exercise their displeasure with society, joining it would have grounded them. There was no such organisation and as a consequence – with narcotics in hand – Kerouac ensued Cassady westwards across America in search of something more meaningful. Something more meaningful was found in the second part of the books where Sal Paradise (Kerouac) begins a relationship with a Mexican girl named Terry who he had come across travelling the road without Moriarty (Cassady). Whilst not a particularly harmonious start to a relationship, Paradise nevertheless exclaims to have, ‘…found the closest and most delicious thing in life together’.13 The pair rapidly fall in love with each other after sharing life-thus-far Kerouac, On the Road, p. xxvii. M.J. Heale, The Sixties in America: History, Politics and Protest (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001), p.132. 13Kerouac, On the Road, p.76. 11 12


stories on a bus journey and begin to plot a course together. The initial idea was that Paradise would take Terry back to New York, this being financially unviable they return to Terry’s hometown so that Paradise can find work. The first counter-cultural point to make is with regards to Terry’s ethnicity – she is Mexican, a marginalised minority. By pursuing a relationship with her, Paradise is making a statement that love transgresses social boundaries. This point is made plainly in the book, ‘It was as simple as that. You could have all your Peaches and Bettys and Marylous and Ritas and Camilies and Inezes in this world; this was my girl and my kind of girlsoul [sic], and I told her that’.14 The couple ended up in Sabinal, California where Paradise found work as a cotton-picker – invoking parallels of the suffering of another ethnic minority in America – on a farm to support their rent of a tent and the sustenance of themselves and Terry’s son Jonny. By doing this Paradise has made the complete transformation from high-rolling New York capitalist lifestyle to diverse agrarian Western existence. Everyday [sic] I earned approximately a dollar and a half. It was just enough to buy groceries in the evening on the bicycle. The days rolled by. I forgot all about the East and all about Dean and Carlo and the bloody road.15 The daily strife and effort involved in providing an agrarian lifestyle – reminiscent of those Native American predecessors – enabled Paradise to forget all that had previously driven him. His writing, his comradeship, his drugs and the road; all were former loves and all had been supplanted by his superior lifestyle. ‘I was a man of the earth, precisely as I had dreamed I would be, in Paterson.'16 This is the high-water mark in On the Road, despite the fact that this eventuality was the physical realisation of the ideological aims that had driven him out onto the road, it did not last. With the coming of the seasons the cultivation of the land became harder, the harsh reality of an agrarian habitat fashioned Paradise to long for the familiarity and abundance of his former life. ‘I could feel the pull of my own life calling me back’17 he mused as he sat in an agrarian draftee barn, his new ideological abode and spiritual home – it would seem that it is easier to be ideologically driven when you want for nothing. Needless to say that Paradise abandons this near-paradise not long afterwards without so much as a hint of remorse. ‘See you in New York, Terry’, I said. She was supposed to drive to New York in a month with her brother. But we both knew she wouldn’t make it. At a hundred feet I turned to

Ibid., p.74. Ibid., p.88. 16 Ibid., p.88. 17 Ibid., p.89. 14 15


look at her. She just walked on back to the shack, carrying my breakfast plate in one hand. I bowed my head and watched her. Well, lackadaddy, I was on the road again.18 There is a near exact imprint of this scenario found within the road movie Easy Rider which in 1969 attempted to effectively capture the zeitgeist of On the Road in cinematic version – which again was equally successful. Here the two anti-hero’s on a drugs run, played by Peter Fonda and Denis Hopper, pick up a ‘hippy’ hitch-hiker who acquires a ride to his commune. The commune again is out in the Californian desert, where the youths inspired by the beat generation attempted to break free of their immoral capitalist constrains. In conversation with the hitch-hiking hippy, Fonda’s character discusses the environmental difficulties of agrarian living and the hitch-hiker responds despondently admitting that many of their brethren will have returned to their more comfortable former lives before the winter is through. Equally both Fonda and Hopper fail to identify this commune as the answer to their counter-cultural angst, instead favouring to continue with their drug-run in order to finance their own alternative lifestyle – which in-and-ofitself is a capitalist pursuit, a perverse American Dream. Could it be that this is what Fonda is referring to when he utters those immortal words at the end of the film? ‘We blew it man’. If one considers the dissemination of this movie throughout America, during the end of the sixties and early seventies, it may be that this element of failure within the film is a statement not dissimilar to that of Hunter Thompsons’ high-water mark that would come two years later. In between these two pieces is a decade in which there was a substantial shift away from bland conservative America to a polity of the New left, or as historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr put it; ‘The Politics of Hope’,19 which centrally focused around the Kennedy administration. This hope was not one of comfort or of prosperity necessarily, but one of ideologically change that would address some of the moral issues that the beat generation had countered. This is surmised by John F. Kennedy who in 1960 implored: Beyond the frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. I am asking each you to be pioneers on that new frontier…20 Worthy of note, firstly, are Kennedy’s use of the terms ‘pioneer’ and ‘frontier’, in order to invoke the idea of the enterprising national character within the public consciousness, but also to note that the rhetoric inspires active participation. No wonder then that the sixties have often been Ibid., p.93. M.J. Heale, The Sixties in America, p.52. 20 Ibid., p.52. 18 19


described as the decade of protest and activism. Many of the disciples of the beat generation would have taken this as a ‘call to arms’, if you like, and thus ensued, in the years that followed, a wave of activism that intended to make progressive strides in areas such as civil rights, pacifism, poverty and racial discrimination – all of which has been extensively studied throughout historiography. Hunter Thompson scribes this optimism in Fear and Loathing when he looks back nostalgically at the formative years of the sixties and states, ‘You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…’21 and under the Kennedy administration maybe they were. Nevertheless the realities of the insurmountable task set for themselves became apparent as decade lugubriously trudged on, and so the hope and optimism wavered. Government shifted from the leadership of Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon, swinging the political pendulum from left to right as the baton was passed. As Heale puts it, ‘So many of the hopes of the sixties – the abolition of poverty, the elimination of racial discrimination, the elevation of the Third World – had not been fulfilled’.22 This is of course the observation that Thompson is making with his statement of the ‘high-water mark’. This point can be further illustrated through the release of the movie Two Lane Blacktop in 1971, another piece of picaresque narrative however instead of the protagonists – both of whom adopt the usual counter-cultural identifiers – being socially or politically motivated, they are instead moored to an ideology of motors – a car counter-culture, if you like. Monte Hellmen is articulating through this movie a common response to the perceived failure of the sixties, which would be to continue the search for a ‘new vision’ but exercise it through a new medium – a less grandiose aim which is more likely to be successful. But even this lesser aim fails, shown in the film when the motor ideology provides an impasse between the men and a meaningful relationship with their female travel companion. The expression of a ‘new vision’ that does rely upon political upheaval is not simply a posthumous notion either, there is evidence of it during the sixties also, running parallel to the more politically motivated movements. This is principally found in Tom Wolfe’s narrative of the author Ken Kesey’s philosophy and he and his disciples’ exploits in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Kesey disseminates the practise of internalising the quest for the ‘new vision’. Like the forefathers of the beat generation, they turn to the practise of drug usage in order to expose a higher plain of consciousness and existence. Unlike their forefathers they see no need for social application of their philosophy – other than maybe instigating the internalisation of the quest in other people. Wolfe states this distinction clearly: 21Thompson, 22Heale,

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p.68. The Sixties in America, p.155. 24

There was no goal of an improved moral order in the world or an improved social order, nothing about salvation and certainly nothing about immorality of the life hereafter. Hereafter! That was a laugh. If ever there was a group devoted to the here and now it was the Pranksters.23 However, even they under their own admission failed. The lines ‘We blew it’ 24 appear again towards the end of the book as the quest of the middle-class white Pranksters again ends in failure. It may have been that they anticipated the failure of a highly radical politicised movement but equally their failure can be traced to the subjectivity of their own cause – the failure to recognise that there is more to existence than simply the ‘self’, the failure to be political. The simplistic aim of this article has been to establish the notion of the ‘high-water mark’ within the road genre – so as to include it as a defining characteristic of the genre at large. It is a term that denotes the point in the narrative in which the ideological motivation for the quest is very nearly realised, but through a fault in the character, it ultimately fails to reach fruition. In order to achieve this, the paper has offered up the societal example of counter-culture America and the literature and movies that have represented it. Starting with the ideologically driven ‘beat generation’ in the 1950s reacting to the conformity of the age and through to the observations of the early 1970s of the failed nature of the high pursuits of the preceding decade. Whether or not the New Left movement was a complete failure is irrelevant in this train of thought – it was perceived to be a failure and is then represented as such in the subsequent literature. There are indeed other examples of the ‘high-water mark’ within the road genre that lie outside of the counter-culture context. One example is within Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic road narrative The Road,25 in which a father and son struggle to exist within a dystopian dying planet. They are a heading towards the coast – that is their quest, their ideology. However, an alternative eventuality is offered to them upon the discovery of a bunker with all they require for their sustenance, but they fail to recognise this as their ‘high-water mark’ and instead continue along the road heading towards the coast – a consequence of which is the fathers ultimate demise.26 Finally and to conclude, as a parting remark, this paper hints at a reason for the existence of the ‘high-water mark’ within the genre, and to a certain extent within its societal context. It is the argument of this article that the reason for the ultimate failure of these undeniably morally pleasing ideological aims is the notion of wealth or prosperity. It is akin to Sal Paradise in the Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (London: Bantam Books, 1971), p.116. Ibid., p.364. 25 Cormac McCarthy, The Road (Oxford: Picador, 2010). 26 Ibid., p.147. 23 24


Californian desert. Here is a man who has realised his ideological pursuit, however, the reality and experience of the pursuit is a harsh one and ultimately it leads to a longing urge for a former more comfortable life – ethereal ideological pursuits be dammed. The practical difficulties of a moralistic ideological pursuit make the experience of realising it short-lived. It is even found in the pursuit of the American Dream and to nostalgic allegories of the West. How attainable is the American Dream realistically? How many pioneers actually made a fortune from heading out West? Perhaps it is precisely because of this that the road genre is so popular. It is easier and profoundly more satisfying – if somewhat superficial – for the masses to go on a quest vicariously than to go through the hardships of a physical one.


Reflections of Modern Political and Cultural Agendas in Screen Representations of Elizabeth I By Kimberley Davies This paper will argue that screen representations of Elizabeth I reflect modern political and cultural agendas and that films that carry political and/or cultural agendas relevant to its society are more likely to become classic films. This article will focus on comparisons between two films, The Virgin Queen (1955) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), with minor comparisons to other films and images. Both of these films are American representations of Elizabeth, although Elizabeth: The Golden Age does have a more international aspect. This discussion will show that each film has its own agenda, as well as reflecting the social, cultural and political feeling at the time of its production. Film is an invaluable resource in the study of history, but it must be used with caution because the bottom line in the mainstream film industry is not historical accuracy but profit - this in itself being a cultural agenda.1 History is an unending dialogue between past and present, sometimes it is possible to glimpse not only at the era that a film is set in but also at the concerns of the time when the film was made: historical films are almost always about when they were made rather than the era they were set in.2 A nation’s films reflect its mentality in a more undeviating way then other artistic material.3 Director Shekhar Kapur says: ‘If you can't see our own times and lives in a film there's no reason to make it’. 4 This article will look at images/representations of stereotypical queens/royal families and how films can evoke a political and cultural agenda. Furthermore the perceived intelligence of Elizabeth and reflections in monarchical soap operas will be explored and used to demonstrate how films are made to be symbolic of current events. An examination of actors’ personas will demonstrate assistance in spreading the films cultural and/or political agenda. That is that by using certain actors certain agendas are being put forward. Idealisation of 1

Paul B Weinstein, ‘Movies as the Gateway to History: the History and Film Project’, The History Teacher, 35.1 (2001), 27-48 (pp.28-41). 2 Jeffrey Richards, ‘Signposts: History Films’, History Today, 61.10 (2011), p.52, <> [accessed 7 April 2013]. 3 Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1947), p.5. 4 Stephen Moss, 'Film-making is an adventure', The Guardian, (1 November 2007), <> [accessed 10 April 2013]. 27

masculinity and femininity in film will also be demonstrated as will perceptions of Elizabeth’s concerns of growing old thus demonstrating how interpretation of history can be based on past political agendas. It is easy in the twenty-first century to conjure up the image of a powerful Tudor Queen in the form of Elizabeth I.5 The word queen derives from the Anglo-Saxon word cwen, meaning wife of a king not his female counterpart; a queen was in an historically stereotypical sense supposed to bring feminine prayers for mercy and peace to the masculine business of war. 6 In The Virgin Queen Elizabeth is not a stereotypical female and is portrayed as having a male mind and actively using it to avoid conflict therefore playing up to the traditional queen image in a nonconventional way. In Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Elizabeth is portrayed as being very feminine in emotions and being led to political decisions by male members of her council. According to Lingard, the Babington Plot was effectively Elizabeth’s revenge for being kept imprisoned for twenty-years; yet in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Elizabeth is clearly distraught at the death of her cousin (Mary Queen of Scots) which only occurred due to Elizabeth’s council pressuring her showing a twenty-first century representation of Elizabeth as an emotional being rather than the historically portrayed regal women.7 Modern society understands this portrayal of Elizabeth as an emotional human being, thus exemplifying how films send a cultural message to audiences. If films did not send a cultural message that was understood by audiences, potentially the only portrayal of Elizabeth that individuals would have, is that which appears in history books.8 Films shown in cinemas tend to be cyclical and dictated by box office returns; essentially audience reception. 9 Films are made according to the popular style of the time; currently monarchical soap-operas (such as, the BBC’s The Tudors) are one such popular cycle.10 EarlyModern dramas were not previously played out as soap-operas, reinforcing the idea that messages in films tend to be about the era of the film’s production and not the era it was set in. For example, The Virgin Queen, specifically the life story of Elizabeth, relates to the McCarthyism scare. 11 Just like the McCarthyism scare, Elizabeth’s life was full of accusations of disloyalty, destabilization, or treason without proper regard for evidence. One example being the Bisley boy


Helen Castor, ‘Exception to the Rule’, History Today, 60.10 (2010), 37-43 (p.37). Ibid., p.37. 7 Patrick Collinson, ‘Elizabeth I and the verdicts of history’, Historical Research, 76.194 (2003), 469-491 (p.484). 8 Ibid., p.484. 9 Richards, ‘Signposts: History Films’, p.52. 10 Ibid., p.52. 11 Ibid., p.52. 6


story, and a further example being the accusations of treason against Elizabeth made after Mary I became Queen following Edwards’s death. According to Jeffrey Richards, the latest cycle of monarchical films arose following the phenomenon of Princess Diana and the much-publicised exploits of the current royal family.12 Princess Diana and Elizabeth I both went from being naïve princesses (especially in the portrayal of Elizabeth in Elizabeth (1998)) to serious public figures.13 Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a sequel to Elizabeth which was released a year after the death of Princess Diana (the people’s princess). Diana’s known persona was as a caring, loving person who snubbed the usual royal persona, stigma and rules to use her status to highlight the plight of the needy; this is why Diana was loved and viewed as the people’s princess. Portraying Elizabeth I as having similar traits to the recently deceased Diana, allows the audience to relate to Elizabeth as not just a royal but as a human being thus exemplifying a cultural agenda. In modern times films tend to humanise royals so as that the public can relate to them. This is more prominent in Elizabeth: The Golden Age than in The Virgin Queen as currently people can relate to a vulnerable, emotional royal (such as Princess Diana) more than a hard-nosed queen portraying essentially a female king (Elizabeth in The Virgin Queen). In Elizabeth: The Golden Age Elizabeth interchanges emotionally between flirtation, anguish and unhinged rage.14 However, in Elizabeth: The Golden Age flirtations are more intellectual than physical exemplifying a relationship of minds rather than bodies – the opposite of The Virgin Queen.15 The humanisation of royals has now been extended beyond the Tudors and into the Windsors with such films as The Queen (2006) and The Kings Speech (2010), each attempting to simultaneously mythologise and humanise the monarchy for both the British and American markets. 16 This demonstrates how films are representations of political and cultural agendas. Cinema has always been irresistibly attracted to monarchy; the figure of Elizabeth I has fascinated filmmakers as she is a character whose womanliness is in conflict with her queenly


Ibid., p.52. Eric Josef Carlson, ‘Teaching and technology Elizabeth Tudor with Movies: Film, Historical Thinking, and the Classroom’, The Sixteenth Century Journal, 38.2 (2007) 419-428 (p.422). 14 Sukhdev Sandhu, 'Film reviews: Elizabeth: The Golden Age, In the Shadow of the Moon and Heima, The Telegraph, (2 November 2007), <> [accessed 9 April 2013]. 15 Cynthia Fuchs, 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age', Common Sense Media, (4 February 2008), <> [accessed 10 April 2013]. 16 Richards, ‘Signposts: History Films’, p.52. 13


duties.17 It has been portrayed that Elizabeth sacrificed personal happiness to fulfil her duties as shown in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Young Bess (1953) and The Virgin Queen.18 These films reflect the monarchical soap-opera which is the current trend. In The Virgin Queen it is suggested that Elizabeth did not forgo her own happiness (having children) for her duty, but instead was unable to bear children so was not able to play the expected role that a queen of the time would have played. However, Elizabeth is portrayed as putting duty before love and happiness by letting Sir Walter Raleigh sail to the Americas. The Virgin Queen examines the choices that women, past and present, have had to make regarding having a career or being a mother (often the two do not complement each other).19 Elizabeth was born into royalty and therefore did not have a choice in her destiny; perhaps she was wary of marriage due to seeing the results of her mother’s marriage and death.20 Due to putting off marriage, Elizabeth did not need to concern herself with possible fertility issues or the risks of childbirth death; factors that had affected other members of her family.21 Depictions of Elizabeth in film are a double-edged sword with a cultural agenda (the cultural agenda being that it is acceptable to choose one thing over another), yet they also remind us of a time when women did not have the choice of either marriage and/or a career. 22 This relates to the time of The Virgin Queen’s release when it was generally accepted that a married middle-class woman would not have a career; most women in the Early-Modern era had no choice but to work (unless they married a rich husband). Elizabeth was a woman of cunning intelligence as shown in both films. In The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth was able to fool the French ambassador into believing that she was too ill to discuss marriage negotiations, a move she had to explain to her advisors. In Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Elizabeth is shown to be sharp thinking in terms of foiling off unwanted suitors (such as the young Austrian Archduke who Elizabeth speaks to in fluent German thus showing Elizabeth’s


Ibid., p.52; Kevin Murphy, 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age review', Talk Talk, <> [accessed 10 April 2013]. 18 Richards, ‘Signposts: History Films’, p.52; Deborah Cartmell, I.Q. Hunter, et al, Retrovisions: Reinventing the Past in Film and Fiction (London: Pluto Press,2011), p.8. 19 Linotte Melodieusse, 'Classic Woman-centric Movie Review: ‘The Virgin Queen’ (1955)', Persephone Magazine, (2 January 2013), <> [accessed 10 April 2013]. 20 Ibid.; Michael Dobson and Nicola J Watson, England’s Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p.222. 21 Mary was dogged by embarrassment regarding lack of fertility and Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr died of childbirth related diseases. Carole Levin, The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the politics of sex and power (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1992), p.65. 22 Melodieusse, 'Classic Woman-centric Movie Review', Persephone Magazine, [accessed 10 April 2013]. 30

intelligence).23 However, she is not able to control her thoughts when it comes to matters of her heart.24 This exemplifies that the image of Elizabeth as intelligent has not dramatically changed over time. Elizabeth was one of the more prominent ornaments on the mantelpiece of history; the only real question was how often to dust her off.25 When in relation to film the ‘ornament’ of Elizabeth tend s to be ‘dusted off’ and bought out when her story is relevant to current society or a cultural message that is wished to be portrayed to current society. Films are often used in metaphorical ways to broach subjects that are too raw to be tackled directly.26 The anxiety of the ‘noir’ film (which The Virgin Queen could be classified as) was then a cinematic expression of “primal anxiety over borders and boundaries that manifests itself in specific fears and phobias of race, sex, maternity and national origin”; in short a feeling of home/country being under siege by an enemy, relating to the Spanish Armada invading England and also fears of the rise of communism in 1950s America.27 The Virgin Queen was used as a way to approach the controversy surrounding the domestic communist spies and saboteurs in the 1950s. 28 Feelings and emotions of the general public are often transcribed into films. 29 In America after World War Two, Hollywood played a vital role as an interpreter of United States foreign policy by translating ideas into accessible and therefore effective terms for Americans to live by. 30 Films mean cultural discourse and therefore intersect with political, economic and military exercises.31 Cultural works are always embedded in concrete material and social relations: in many ways post-World-War Two films are representative of popular culture.32 In the 1930s and 1940s actresses were commonly hired on a contract basis and generally cast in romantic melodramas resulting in actresses often playing the same character type in most of their movies. Due to changes in filmmaking policy actors/actresses were hired for individual roles rather than on a contract basis which had previously resulted in women taking on varying roles. 33 Even though they were acting in fewer films on average per year, many such as Bette Davis 23

Harvey S. Karten, 'Elizabeth: the golden age', Arizona Reporter ,(12 October 2007), <> [accessed 10 April 2013]. 24 Ibid. 25 Collinson, ‘Elizabeth I and the verdicts of history’, p.483 26 Weinstein, ‘Movies as the Gateway to History’, p.44 27 Junghyun Hwang, ‘From the End of History to Nostalgia: The Manchurian Candidate, Then and Now’, Journal of Transnational American Studies, 2.1 (2010), 1-19 (p.4). 28 Weinstein, ‘Movies as the Gateway to History’, p.44. 29 Hwang, ‘From the End of History to Nostalgia’, p.3. 30 Ibid., p.3. 31 Ibid., p.3. 32 Ibid., p.3. 33 Anne E Lincoln and Michael Patrick Allen, ‘Double Jeopardy in Hollywood: Age and Gender in the Careers of Film Actors, 1926-1999’, Sociological Forum, 19.4 (2004), 611-631 (pp.615-620). 31

became bigger stars as a result. 34 Characters were frequently played by stars with established personas; where roles were tailored to showcase their charm. 35 Davis (Elizabeth in The Virgin Queen) had an established persona meaning that the film had a better chance of box office success and therefore the agenda of having Davis as the leading role displays the cultural agenda of profit. The main actress in Elizabeth: The Golden Age was Cate Blanchett who had no known persona prior to Elizabeth. This sends a cultural message that an individual is free to create one’s own character. In Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Elizabeth is portrayed as being very friendly with her lady-in-waiting (Bess), at times bordering into the realms of lesbianism. On a deeper level Bess could be viewed as Elizabeth’s alter-ego; Bess is not restrained by royal duty so is able to fall in love and have children - the things that Elizabeth wishes for. This obliterates the concept that the Virgin Queen was so due to her own desires, as if Bess (Elizabeth’s alter-ego) is able to fall in love and have children then it suggests that Elizabeth also wished to have a husband and children. In modern society one is able to create an alter-ego/better identity online; for example a Facebook profile. This is a cultural agenda as an alter ego is a modern concept relating to modern (not Early-Modern) people and values. Film stars provide idealized images of masculinity and femininity. In The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I is portrayed as being a strong powerful female who is excused from having children because of fertility problems; this is representative of female culture of the 1950s which was also the time of the start of the second wave of the feminist movement. 36 Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth in both Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age was a post-feminist trying to have it all: sex, love, career and control over her own life.


This reflects modern women not the Tudor women,

demonstrating modern cultural values that do not fit in the Early-Modern era in which the story was based. Modern notions of romance, love and equality were beyond the imagination of most societies through history and therefore the portrayal of Elizabeth as an independent woman in both The Virgin Queen and Elizabeth: The Golden Age mirrors the hard-won accomplishments of women of modern times showing a cultural message in these films. 38 Had women not fought for equal rights then portrayal of Elizabeth would have most likely been depicted as more in line with Early Modern views of women as subordinates. Over the course of time representations of Elizabeth have resulted in her being portrayed as role model for career women exemplifying a


Ibid. Weinstein, ‘Movies as the Gateway to History’, p.44. 36 Lincoln and Allen, ‘Double Jeopardy in Hollywood’, p.628. 37 Carlson, ‘Teaching and technology Elizabeth Tudor with Movies’, p.421. 38 Weinstein, ‘Movies as the Gateway to History’, p.43. 35


cultural agenda in film; as views on womens place in society have modernised so have the representation of Elizabeth.39 Elizabeth’s concerns about growing older are exposed in both The Virgin Queen and Elizabeth: The Golden Age as well as The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.40 Bette Davies is said to have played a realistic portrayal of Elizabeth; we as historians are aware that Elizabeth was reckoned to be beautiful and feared losing her beauty. 41 The twentieth century was not the first time that Elizabeth was portrayed as worried about ageing. In several paintings including David Wilki Wynfields Incident in the Life of Queen Elizabeth (1875), Paul Delaroche’s The Death of Queen Elizabeth (1827) and Augustus Leopold Egg’s Queen Elizabeth Discovers She Is No Longer Young (1848) Elizabeth is portrayed as ageing and being in dismay at her own aging. Elizabeth was preoccupied with ageing hence her refusal to look in mirrors; during her reign Elizabeth would not let anyone portray her as old. Victorian painters addressed the issue of Elizabeth’s ageing because it was relevant to the Victorian middle-class public. This exemplifies how modern interpretations/representations of Elizabeth are not solely based on historical records of the era but instead images that had their own political and cultural agendas. 42 Furthermore, this demonstrates that prior to film, images were used to reflect cultural and political agendas; the popular image of Elizabeth has been fictionalised in the last four centuries.43 A further example of where we can examine cultural and political agendas in images and films is by comparing Marcus C Stone’s The Royal Nursery (1871) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. In Stone’s artwork the toy ship (representing the Spanish Armada) is facing Edward suggesting that it was Edward who should have defeated the Spanish. In Elizabeth: The Golden Age the ship used to position the Spanish on the map, which is similar to the ship in the Stone’s image, is facing Elizabeth suggesting that Elizabeth was in fact the one who should have, and did, defeat the Armada. In Elizabeth: The Golden Age it is implied that intelligence was used to drive the Armada into the rocks with nature’s help. This examples modern political messages which imply that nothing happens by the grace of God alone and that government needs to assist in matters;


Dobson and Watson, England’s Elizabeth, p.218. Ibid., pp.159-168. 41 Ibid. 42 In this case to encourage Queen Victoria to come out of mourning and maintain the image of devoted wife and mother who left government to men and therefore was the queenly virtue before she turned into the perceived unmarried, meddlesome, barren old hag like Elizabeth. 42 Carlson, ‘Teaching and technology Elizabeth Tudor with Movies’, p.424. 43 Cartmell, Hunter, et al, Retrovisions, p.9. 40


furthermore, it changes the basic thrust of the story to provide a scene of heroism which appeals to the modern market.44 In conclusion, this essay has argued that modern screen representations of Elizabeth almost always carry a cultural and/or political message. The bottom line in the modern film industry is not historical accuracy but profit.45 Neither The Virgin Queen nor Elizabeth: The Golden Ages (nor any other of the films mentioned) are historical evidence; they are simply an interpretation of Elizabeth.46 Films are not historical texts they are works of art and therefore some films although carrying political and cultural agendas will still be popular amongst mass culture. 47 However, with the exception of a few films the majority of classic older films are history based or at least contain some elements of fact. Interpretations of historical people and events are constantly changing and are shaped by the contexts in which they are produced; this is evident when comparing The Virgin Queen to Elizabeth: The Golden Age.48 Although only produced fifty-two years apart the portrayal of Elizabeth in each film demonstrates that each film had its own political and cultural aims appropriate to that time in history. Furthermore, this would be a rational explanatory measure why some older films still receive positive audience reception. Films containing social and cultural messages that are understood and relevant to mass market are more likely to become classics. Other films are one-hit wonders made for the cultural agenda of profit and entertainment and are only relevant to the cultural and political message of the time. These films are not likely to stand the test of time and reach classic film status. As a result, the extent of screen representations of Elizabeth I reflect not only cultural and political agendas of the time of production but also political and cultural messages that can be understood by future generations.


Carlson, ‘Teaching and technology Elizabeth Tudor with Movies’, p.425. Weinstein, ‘Movies as the Gateway to History’, p.28. 46 Carlson, ‘Teaching and technology Elizabeth Tudor with Movies’, p.422. 47 Ibid., p.420. 48 Ibid., p.419. 45


‘It certainly wasn’t one of us!’: How Victorian Press Coverage of the Whitechapel Murders Show how Important ‘Otherness’ was in Structuring Visions of Social Order By Samantha Rickards Press coverage of the grizzly Whitechapel murders from 1888 onward sent waves of fear and suspicion through the entirety of London that affected all of its inhabitants. Exaggeration of how many murders had occurred at the hands of the Ripper and newspapers printing eyewitness reports which varied on a daily basis meant that people of the East and West Ends of London felt danger was around every corner.1 Although the conclusions made as to the identity of the killer varied dramatically between social classes, the theme of ‘otherness’ ran throughout the accusations, with a common consensus that ‘no sane Englishman would commit such brutal crimes’.2 To understand the visions of social order held by the different classes of the Victorian era we must explore the key theme of ‘otherness’, a concept which clearly stated that the killer was different to the ‘everyday’ man in some way or another. Examples of this could be a different race, religion, class or even gender. The absence of a known motive made the killer distinct and unique and his crimes appear extraordinary; all of which contributed to this symbol of 'otherness'. This article will discuss the most popular theories on the identity of the killer, linking them to the reactions from the different social classes of Victorian London. The views of the upper-class in the West End ‘mirrored the debate over “outcast London” and the fear of social revolution on the part of the poor of the East End’,3 whereas the reactions from the East End ‘reflected ingrained prejudices against foreigners, Jews, the police and upper-class society’.4 Darren Oldridge, ‘Casting the spell of terror: the press and the early Whitechapel murders’, in Jack the Ripper: Media, Culture, History, ed. by Alexandra Warwick and Martin Willis (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), pp.46-55 (p.46). 2 Robert F. Haggard, ‘Jack the Ripper as the threat of outcast London’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, pp.197-214 (p.207). 3 Ibid., p.197. 4 Ibid. 1


In doing so this article will reveal that both views were pre-existing conceptions that shaped Victorian society and had existed for many years, which were aggravated and exaggerated by the extensive press coverage of the killings to bring them to the surface. The most popular theory reported by the press was that of a ‘mad doctor’ killer;5 a view that was most popular in the East End, but was still held by a minority in the West. This school of thought claimed the Ripper was a ‘crazed medical student who had caught syphilis from a prostitute (possibly even “had his privy member destroyed”)’ and sought revenge on all ladies of the night from Whitechapel for this indignity.6 The fact that the press gave this doctor such an elaborate story shows how important ‘otherness’ was to the people of the nineteenth century; not only did the Ripper have a different, upper-class occupation to many, he was also insane; another distinguishing feature that makes him an ‘different’ figure. The initial mad doctor theory came from reports of the inquests, in which the mutilations of the victims were described as ‘skilfully performed’ with the use of ‘some anatomical knowledge’.7 The theory was considered throughout the police investigation, and so widely believed that there were enquires made to trace three supposedly ‘insane’ medical students who had attended London Hospital, two of which were traced and one had moved abroad.8 The speed at which the killings occurred as well as the precise incisions and the organ removal suggested that Jack the Ripper had at least some knowledge of anatomy. Some professionals disagreed with this theory, such as Dr Thomas Bond, who stated: ‘In my opinion he does not even possess the technical knowledge of a butcher or a horse slaughterman or any person accustomed to cutting up dead animals.’9 However, Bond may have been attempting to deflect criticism from his profession by making these claims due to the violent nature of the reaction from the East End to potential Ripper suspects.10 This theory was more popular in the East due to its social connotations; doctors were well educated, upperclass citizens who could move easily through London on house calls. The upper-classes of the West End preferred to focus on suspects from other, lower-class professions, rather than on one of their own.

Christopher Frayling, ‘The house that Jack built’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, pp.13-28 (p.17). 6 Ibid. p.16. 7 Ibid. p.17. 8 Andrew Smith, ‘The Whitechapel murders and the medical gaze’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, pp.110-123 (p.111). 9 Thomas Bond, quoted in Frayling, The house that Jack built’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.17. 10 Haggard, ‘Jack the Ripper as the threat of outcast London’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.208. 5


Other occupations also came under scrutiny in 1888, most of which were considered to be lower-class roles. Any profession which had experience with a knife came to be suspected, this included bookmakers, cork-cutters, butchers, slaughterers, sailors and servicemen on leave. 11 There were no actual witnesses to the murders and very few leads found throughout the investigation, so the police had to thoroughly explore every possible route by casting a wide dragnet in hopes the killer would fall into their hands. 12 The murders only occurred on weekends, which brought more suspicion to the working classes and therefore the East End. 13 The occupation-based suspect list did not appear to produce the portrait of one lone killer, but ‘a catalogue of those considered by the West End to be brutal and callous enough to perform such deeds’.14 The only highly publicised arrest made on a man due to his profession was that of John Pizer, a shoe finisher also known as ‘Leather apron’. 15 However, other distinguishing features that had no impact on his occupation made Pizer far more suspicious in the eyes of the East End and led to his arrest. Pizer was a Polish Jew, and after the mad doctor theory, the second most popular suspicion with both the public and the press was that Jack the Ripper was a foreign agitator. 16 Eyewitness accounts published in the newspapers stressed the murderer’s foreign appearance and a list of theories based upon this form of ‘otherness’ were investigated by the police.17 This list included; a Jewish socialist, an Irish revolutionary, a ‘low class Asiatic’, Russian Jews seeking to discredit the English police, an insane Russian doctor, ‘low class’ Polish Jews, a Polish Jewish shoemaker, King Leopold of the Belgians and a Portuguese sailor.18 Life was hard for London’s working class, a large number of long-standing problems such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, excessive alcoholism and ‘immorality’19 all made the East End a symbol of urban poverty.20 These issues and the economic decline were all blamed on the influx of foreigners in the 1800’s by the newspapers and inhabitants alike, which led to the social unrest that caused the listed men to become suspects. 21 The Jews in particular were heavily persecuted; ‘of the 130 arrests made in the London area alone, a significant proportion were of Jews’. 22 There was a high Ibid. Ibid., p.209. 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid. 15 ‘John Pizer’, Casebook: Jack the Ripper, <> [accessed 17.04.2013]. 16 Frayling, The house that Jack built’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.19. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid. 19 Haggard, ‘Jack the Ripper as the threat of outcast London’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.199. 20 Ibid., p.198. 21 Ibid. 22 Frayling, The house that Jack built’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.21. 11 12


Jewish population in the East End. Of the 60,000 to 70,000 Jews in London, approximately ninety per cent of that population lived in the East End, with Whitechapel alone having 30,000 to 40,000 Jewish inhabitants.23 As previously mentioned, John ‘Leather apron’ Pizer was a Polish Jew and after his highly publicised arrest the descriptions of Jack the Ripper in the press were said to have became ‘more and more foreign in appearance’.24 Jewish involvement in the killings was such a widely held suspicion that the coroner, Mr Wynne Baxter described the killer as having ‘Judus-like approaches’; the Manchester Guardian stated on 10 September 1888: ‘all are united in the belief that [the murderer] is a Jew or of Jewish parentage[,] his face being of a marked Hebrew type’ and even the Head of the Central Intelligence Division, Sir Robert Anderson, was convinced that the Ripper was a Polish Jew.25 Anti-Semitism had become such an issue in the East End that a message left on a wall close to the murder scene of Catherine Eddowes stating that ‘The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing’ was quickly erased by the police in fear of a full-scale riot.26 The image of the Ripper as a foreign or Jewish agitator was almost entirely fabricated by the press, not only in reports of the murders and eyewitness accounts that exaggerated the ‘otherness’ of the killer, but also in the press constructed image of the East End in the years prior to 1888.27 Another theory about Jack the Ripper’s identity in reference to ‘otherness’ is that he was a ‘decadent English milord’. 28 Much like Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, this theory presented the Ripper as a ‘gentleman of leisure seeking luxurious cruelties’.29 This view was subscribed to by the journalist W.T. Stead, 30 who in his time as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, also ran controversial newspaper articles such as The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon; an upper-class exposé based upon the child sex trade.31 It appears that Stead felt strongly about exposing the exploitation of the working class by the social elite; and seeing the Ripper murders as another example of this, turned to accusing the upper classes of the crime. No evidence ever materialised to link the murders to any ‘blue-bloods’ named as suspects. 32 This theory of upper-class involvement caused another key ‘otherness’ question; how was Jack the Ripper both a gentle Haggard, ‘Jack the Ripper as the threat of outcast London’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. By Warwick and Willis, p.199. 24 Frayling, The house that Jack built’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.21. 25 Haggard, ‘Jack the Ripper as the threat of outcast London’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.205. 26 Ibid., p.206. 27 Frayling, The house that Jack built’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.19. 28 Ibid., p.13 29 Ibid. 30 Ibid., p.14 31 W. T. Stead, ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’, Pall Mall Gazette, 6 July 1885, p.1. 32 Frayling, The house that Jack built’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.16. 23


man and a savage beast? In the latter half of Wilde’s novel, Dorian Gray, before Gray cruelly murders Basil Hallward he tells his victim: ‘I am tired of myself to-night. I should like to be somebody else’.33 This statement, as well as the Robert Louis Stevenson short story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde sums up the Victorian view about how this change in demeanour was possible; a dual personality. Comparisons of the Ripper to ‘Mr Hyde’ can be seen in many of the newspapers of the era. With the character of Jekyll also having a link to the medical profession (tying in the mad doctor theory) the dual personality thesis proved to be the most accessible explanation for the press to exploit.34 As Elaine Showalter states in Sexual Anarchy: ‘the metaphors associated with Hyde are those of abnormality, criminality, disease, contagion and death’.35 A description of Hyde is given early in the novella by the character Enfield as he reveals to Utterson how he watched Hyde trample a small girl underfoot; He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point. He’s an extraordinary-looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can’t describe him.36 This portrays Hyde as the epitome of ‘otherness’; he embodies everything wrong with society and appears almost pure evil to those who interact with him, however, he looks entirely like a gentleman. The power of the ‘inner demon’ was an important fear rife in the Victorian era, made all the more common by the press coverage of the Jack the Ripper murders and the comparisons of the killer to an entirely fictional being. The attention given by the press to the elaborate story of a mad doctor, the dual personalities of a Jekyll-and-Hyde-type figure and the foreign element of other cultures or religions all contribute to the dark image of the terrifying killer stalking the streets of London, who could have fit into any of these categories. However, the exaggerations also show the press’ ulterior motive; which was to ‘sell' newspapers. The legends of the Ripper were always far more interesting that the facts, encouraging newspapers of the era to print the speculations of the cases rather than the Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (London: Ward, Lock & Company, 1891), p.143. Frayling, The house that Jack built’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.18. 35 Elaine Showalter, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siecle (London: Brown Book Group Limited, 1990), p.112. 36 Robert Lewis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, (London: Longmans, Green & Company, 1886), p.1. 33 34


official reports in an attempt to boost both their readership and their profits. 37 Making money seems to always have been far more important for some Victorian papers, rather than reporting the truth. Of the thousands of letters received in 1888 claiming to be written by Jack the Ripper, two have become particularly famous and were picked up by the press due to their shocking content. The first was the ‘Dear Boss’ letter, sent to the Central News Agency in September 1888, in which the writer mocks the police force, shows an avid desire to kill again and names himself as being Jack the Ripper. The second was the ‘From Hell’ letter, sent to the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee a month later, which was supposedly accompanied by a human kidney and claimed that the killer was a cannibal. Both of these letters are suspected of being written by journalists in an attempt to draw more attention to the killings and, yet again, increase sales. The ‘Dear Boss’ letter also gave the murderer an identity: ‘Jack’ - it was a very common name; suggesting the killer could have been anyone. Contemporarily, the press interest was seen as unhelpful and misleading as it encouraged unreasonable panic.38 As Oldridge states in his article ‘Casting the spell of terror: the press and the early Whitechapel murders’: ‘The “immoral” lives of the victims, the “degraded” state of East London, and the ghostly figure of the killer himself were all established before the deeds of a real-life serial killer could be reported’.39 ‘Otherness’ was a very important element in the structuring of Victorian society. As we can see, those deemed as ‘others’ were often accused of the wrongdoings in society by an incredibly strong ‘certainly not one of us’ mentality. Those who committed such horrible crimes were not considered to have been sane, as displayed in the incredibly popular theses containing ‘mad doctors’ and ‘dual personalities’. Foreigner agitators were obvious suspects - for the economic decline of the East End was blamed upon the influx of foreign immigrants by the newspapers, much as it is today. As discussed, the upper and lower classes had very different ideas as to who the killer could be; was he a common butcher looking for revenge or a decadent milord who took an unhealthy amount of pleasure from the pain of young women? Although we are presented with a range of theories from different classes and races, one belief remains common across all social groups of the Victorian era; it certainly wasn’t one of them.

Christopher Frayling, ‘The house that Jack Built: some stereotypes of the rapist in the history of modern culture’, in Rape, ed. by R. Porter and S. Tomaselli (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp.174-215 (p.185). 38 Oldridge, ‘Casting the spell of terror’, in Jack the Ripper, ed. by Warwick and Willis, p.46. 39 Ibid. 37


‘The Triumph of the "Sanitary Idea" in Urban South Wales was Merely a Commonsense Response to a Filthy Urban Environment’: A Discussion By Maria Dykes Clean drinking water and functioning sewer systems are standard features in our twenty first century society. The supply of clean drinking water exists today almost as a basic human right and the presence of sewage disposal systems also have an undeniably practical function. Therefore, such features could be deemed as sensible resources in our society. However, whether such systems initially emerged as a triumph and as a commonsense response to a filthy urban environment is a matter which requires further discussion. Undoubtedly, urban industrial towns were filthy and consequently reform was needed to improve the environment. But whether Edwin Chadwick’s Public Health Act was the best solution to this problem is a matter which will be explored in this paper. Chadwick’s role in sanitary reform and his theory on disease and miasmas will be looked at and compared to evidence from contemporary medical officers who reported on the relationship between social conditions and disease. This paper will also look at factors hindering the development of public health in South Wales. There will be a specific focus on evidence surrounding anxious boards of health and the behaviours of local businessmen, all of which seemed to contribute to public health reform being a long drawn out process. Finally, all of these points will be explored using examples from the towns of Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff. Chadwick is predominantly remembered today as the ‘champion of the “sanitary idea” of public health'. 1 For Chadwick, diseases (including epidemics and endemics) were ‘aggravated, or propagated chiefly amongst the labouring classes by atmospheric impurities produced by decomposing animal and vegetable substances, by damp and filth, and close and overcrowded dwellings’.2 Chadwick also believed that such diseases could be prevented by ‘drainage, proper


Hamlin, 'Could you starve to death in England in 1839? The Chadwick-Farr controversy and the loss of the "social" in the public health ', American Journal of Public Health, 85. 6 (1995), 856-866 (p.856). 2‘Chadwick’s Report on Sanitary Conditions’, The Victorian Web, <> [accessed 16 March 2013]. 41

cleansing, better ventilation and other means of diminishing impurity’.3 Ieuan Gwynedd Jones argued that for reformers like Chadwick, ‘between 1847 and 1872 the problem of the health of the people was perceived as being almost entirely an urban one’.4 Historians have wrestled over what the term ‘urban’ actually means. According to Jones, the 1861 census declared that one third of the population of Wales was urban because ‘they lived in corporate towns, or parliamentary boroughs, and places that were urban districts for the purpose of local government’.5 But for Jones this definition is unsatisfactory because it fails to incorporate areas like Merthyr Tydfil which, despite having no system of government, was highly industrialised and densely populated.6 Public health reformers clearly categorised Merthyr as an urban area because it was at the forefront of public health reform, where reformers such as T.W. Rammell produced detailed reports on the sanitary conditions of the town.7 The structure and environment of towns like Merthyr definitely display some of the conditions listed by Chadwick in the above quote. In the first half of the nineteenth century, industrialisation created employment opportunities and consequently the population grew rapidly. In 1811, the town had a population of 11,104 and by 1851 this figure had grown to 46,378. 8 This rapid increase led to poorly built housing, overcrowding and slum conditions.9 Housing conditions were particularly bad in areas such as Pont Storehouse where workers cottages had been thrown up in order to accommodate early migrant workers.10 The town of Cardiff was more identifiable as an urban area having both a system of government and a growing population; and consequently, it too displayed some of the conditions described by Chadwick. In 1801, the population of Cardiff was 4672 and by 1841, the population had more than doubled to 10,079; 11 although, the second half of the nineteenth century was to witness the greatest population growth in Cardiff where due a development in the railways and the docklands the population increased to around 33,000 in 1861 and 83,000 by 1881.12 Similarly to Merthyr, Cardiff suffered from poorly built worker housing and extreme 3Ibid.


Gwynedd Jones, Mid-Victorian Wales: The Observers and the Observed (Cardiff: University Of Wales Press, 1992), p.33. 5Ibid., p.27. 6Ibid., pp.29-30. 7Thomas Webster Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on a preliminary inquiry into the sewerage, drainage and supply of water and the sanitary condition of the inhabitants of the town of Merthyr Tydfil (London, 1850). 8Raymond K.J. Grant, ‘Merthyr Tydfil in the mid-nineteenth century: the struggle for public health’, Welsh History Review, 14.4 (1989), 574-594 (p.575). 9W.R. Lambert, ‘Drink and Work-Discipline in Industrial South Wales, c.1800-1870’, Welsh History Review, 7.3 (1975), 289-306 (p.290 & p.291). 10Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, Communities: Essays in the Social History of Victorian Wales (Llandyssul: Gomer Press, 1987), p.332 & p.335, cited in Grant, ‘Merthyr Tydfil in the mid-nineteenth century’, p.576. 11Thomas Webster Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on a preliminary inquiry into the sewerage, drainage and supply of water and the sanitary condition of the inhabitants of the town of Cardiff (London, 1850), p.13. 12 Phillip Jenkins, A History of Modern Wales 1536-1990 (London: Longman, 1992), p.239. 42

overcrowding. An eye witness account from Mr J. Box Stockdale, a police superintendent, describes an extreme case of overcrowding where apparently fifty-four persons were reportedly living in just one room at number seventeen Stanley Street. Notably, the largest room inside this house was just fifteen feet ten inches by seventeen feet two inches, and eight and half feet high; and the average number of persons living in every other house in Stanley Street was approximately fourteen.13 Mr Box Stockdale stated that ‘the smell arising from the overcrowded room was most overpowering’.14 Neither Merthyr nor Cardiff, had adequate sewers or drainage; and in Merthyr a public water supply was not introduced until the 1860s.15 Collectively, these poor living and sanitary conditions would have contributed to a high death rate. The average death rate for Wales in 1848 was about twenty two per thousand, but in Cardiff the figures for the mid 1840s indicate a higher number of thirty per thousand; and in Merthyr the figures from 1853 are around 30.2 per thousand.16 The mortality rate for both towns is particularly shocking when annual death rates are compared to annual birth rates. For example, in 1844 the number of births recorded in Merthyr was 1,600 and the number of deaths was 1,517; and for the same year in Cardiff the number of births equated to 306 and deaths were 350. 17 Ultimately, in some instances the mortality rates outnumber the rate of births and these figures are common throughout both towns during the 1840s. Cholera was essential in bringing about the introduction of Chadwick’s Public Health Act. Chadwick’s general theory was that miasmas emanating from the filth and sewage found in urban areas caused disease and contributed to the high mortality rates. Rammell’s reports on the sanitary conditions of Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff certainly provide evidence of the filth and sewage found in urban areas, and the problems associated with not having adequate sewers or refuse systems. For example in Merthyr, George Jones a miner informed Rammell ‘of a nastiness behind the house where I live. There being no privy to their houses, they come there (the back of my house) to do their business’; H.A. Bruce said that when travelling alongside the river, ‘I scarcely ever pass without seeing people close to me, on the right and left, easing themselves, whilst only a few yards off women and girls are filling their pitchers with water’; and Reverend E. Jenkins of Dowlais stated ‘with reference to the state of the streets, a very large portion of them are in a disgraceful state [...] I have seen horses attached to carts stick fast, and the horses taken 13Rammell,

Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Cardiff, p.34 &p.35. Ibid., p.34 &p.35. 15 Lambert, ‘Drink and Work-Discipline in Industrial South Wales’, p.291; Jenkins, A History of Modern Wales,p.251; Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Cardiff, p.20. 16Jenkins, A History of Modern Wales,p.251. 17Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Merthyr Tydfil, p.14; Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Cardiff, p.13. 14


out of the carts to get them free’. 18 There is also evidence that some contemporaries shared Chadwick’s theory on the association between miasmas and disease. Mr Morgan who lived on the corner of High Street and Duke Street in Cardiff, stated that ‘the slops of 16 houses in Duke Street run along the open gutter to one of the gratings opposite’ his front door, and that the stench outside is so awful that he fears the air could cause ‘cholera, or some other diseases’. 19 Dr T.J. Dyke who was a surgeon in Merthyr also held similar views when in 1850 he informed Rammell that the sole sewer in Merthyr was inadequate because: the noxious effluvia from these gully-holes (particularly on the approach of rain) were insupportably offensive [...] These effluvia so evidently caused the illnesses in a family who resided close to the street in this situation, that I considered it my duty to advise them to leave the house, which they did. Their health has materially improved since their removal.20 Chadwick’s Report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of 1842 called for government action, however, according to historians Raymond Grant and Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, the threat of cholera was the major motivating force which inspired the government and the population of England and Wales to finally take action. 21 As a direct result of the 1849 cholera outbreak, seventeen towns in South Wales adopted the Public Health Act, including Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff.22 Although notably, there was no cholera epidemic in 1842. And outside of the ‘cholera’ periods, epidemic and contagious diseases only made up a small portion of the deaths in towns like Merthyr and Cardiff. For example, in Merthyr in 1844 only around thirty five percent of deaths were caused by epidemics and contagious diseases, and in Cardiff for the same year only seventeen percent can be attributed to this category.23 In part, Chadwick’s sanitary ideas can be seen as a sensible response because there ultimately is a link between disease and dirt. Furthermore, bearing in mind some of the above contemporary responses to the filth and sewage found in nineteenth century Merthyr and Cardiff, Chadwick’s proposals seem to offer a resolution to their problems. However, there are factors which suggest


Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Merthyr Tydfil, p.31, p.33 &p.26. Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Cardiff, pp.26-27. 20Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Merthyr Tydfil, p.28. 21Grant, ‘Merthyr Tydfil in the mid-nineteenth century’, p.585; Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, Health, Wealth and Politics in Victorian Wales, (Swansea: University College of Swansea, 1979), pp.6-7. 22Grant, ‘Merthyr Tydfil in the mid-nineteenth century’, p.585. 23Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Merthyr Tydfil, p.14; Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Cardiff, p.13. 19Rammell,



that Chadwick’s ‘sanitary idea’ was not wholly a response to a filthy urban problem. Michael Sigsworth and Michael Worboys have found evidence supporting this contradiction. Sigsworth and Worboys argue that it is largely acknowledged today that most public health improvements were first made in town centres and in middle class areas; and therefore were ‘not in the most insanitary, usually working class areas of the town’.24 They identify that sanitary improvements such as ‘piped water, glazed sewers, street widening, drainage and paving were to be found first in the areas where rate-payers and local councillors traded or lived’.25 Consequently, such actions suggest the opposite of commonsense. The practicality of Chadwick’s ‘sanitary idea’ at that time is also questionable when we consider the following. For example, earlier we noted that in 1844 seventeen to thirty five percent of recorded deaths in Cardiff and Merthyr were associated with epidemics, endemics or contagions, therefore if Chadwick’s miasma theory and sanitary ideas were the best public health solution what were the causes of death for the other sixty five to eighty three percent of the population? Consequently, there are many contemporaries who link disease and death with more significant factors other than dirt and noxious smells. For instance, William Farr an epidemiologist and statistician in the office of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages stated that ‘hunger destroys a much higher proportion than is indicated by the registers in this and in every other country’;26 in T.J. Dyke’s Report on the Sanitary Condition of Merthyr Tydfil-1865 he said of the high death rate, ‘its causes have been identified as the occupations and relative poverty of the ironworkers and colliers and their families’; 27 and a spokesperson for the working men even commented that: The high rate of mortality which had been alluded to was caused by the mode of life of the people, working underground, and by want of sufficiency of food, and not by want of sanitary laws. What they wanted was more meat.28 The same comments are echoed in Rammell’s report on Cardiff, where both Rammell and Mr James Lewis, the medical officer of Cardiff, attribute the cause of disease and contagion with a lack of ‘good work and wholesome food and lodging’ and the general ‘destitute condition’ of 24B.

Thompson, 'Public provision and private neglect', in Victorian Bradford, ed. by D.G. Wright and J.A. Jowitt (Bradford, 1981), pp.137-50; cited in Michael Sigsworth and Michael Worboys, ‘The public’s view of public health in mid-Victorian Britain’, Urban History, 21.2 (1994), 237-250 (p.241). 25Sigsworth and Worboys, ‘The public’s view of public health’, p.241. 26 William Farr, "[First] Letter to the Registrar General," First Annual Report of the Registrar-General, Parliamentary Papers, 1839, vol. 16, no. 187, app. P, p. 75; cited in Hamlin, 'Could you starve to death in England in 1839?’, pp.857-858. 27T.J. Dyke, Report on the Sanitary Condition of Merthyr Tydfil – 1865 (Merthyr Tydfil, 1866), table II, p.8, Jones, Communities, pp.246-250; cited in Grant, ‘Merthyr Tydfil in the mid-nineteenth century’, pp.583. 28Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Merthyr Tydfil, pp.3-5; cited in Grant, ‘Merthyr Tydfil in the mid-nineteenth century’, p.585. 45

members of the population.29 In essence, there were a number of contributing factors to disease and high mortality rates and mostly these factors seem to be linked to social conditions such as food, housing and work – and not simply as a consequence of dirt and filth. Notably, Chadwick was an advocate for the poor laws and he was not open to any criticism which implied that the poor law system was inadequate for the needs of the population. In his Report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population in 1842 Chadwick stated: The high prosperity in respect to employment and wages and various abundant food, have afforded to the labouring classes no exemptions from attacks of epidemic disease, which have been as frequent and as fatal in periods of commercial and manufacturing prosperity as in any others.30 This is Chadwick clearly outlining that the cause of disease had nothing to do with poverty or prosperity, therefore the cause must be found elsewhere. Notably, Chadwick was also a firm believer in capitalism and industry and therefore was also not willing to accept any comments which claimed that industrial working conditions or worker housing were insufficient. These sentiments can be found in other keen supporters of the Public Health Act, such as G.T. Clark. Andy Croll argues that Clark understood that industrial manufacturers caused a majority of the pollution found in local rivers; however, Clark was careful not to place blame or request remedies from ratepayers because he was: Doubtless aware of the manufacturers’ importance as ratepayers (and their potential to be very powerful opponents of sanitary reform), the soon-to-be trustee of the Dowlais Iron Company was reluctant to suggest any measures that had the effect of curtailing their operations.31 The statistician, Farr and medical officers, Dr John Simon and Dr T.J. Dyke tried to push forward the necessity for social change (such as better pay, better working conditions and more nourishment) as a resolution to the problems faced by the urban working classes; however, historian, Christopher Hamlin states that Chadwick and his followers worked to divert attentions away from such advice and consequently, ‘the ‘traditional’ framework [of the sanitary idea] included resources that might have been powerfully directed toward the social problems of early 29Rammell,

Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Cardiff, p.14 & pp.44-45. Report on Sanitary Conditions’, The Victorian Web, <> [accessed 16 March 2013]. 31Andy Croll, ‘Writing the Insanitary Town: G.T. Clark, Slums and Sanitary Reform’, in G.T. Clark: Scholar Ironmaster in the Victorian Age, ed. by Brian LL. James (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1998), pp.24-47 (p.63). 30‘Chadwick’s


industrialism’.32 What Hamlin suggests is that Chadwick’s Public Health Act overshadowed and pushed back social reform, therefore rather than directly resolving the problem of disease and high mortality rates – Chadwick actually prolonged the problems. And consequently, the argument put forward by Hamlin questions Chadwick’s sanitary idea as being a truly ‘commonsense’ response. To describe the ‘sanitary idea’ of the nineteenth century as a ‘triumph’ and a ‘commonsense response’ can also be considered dubious, especially if we look at the length of time taken to implement public health measures and the circumstances under which implementation occurred. Firstly, despite the Public Health Act being passed in 1848 and seventeen towns in South Wales adopting the act by 1849; public health measures such as a sewerage system and a public water supply were not adequately established in towns like Merthyr until the 1860s.33 This delay can partly be explained if you consider the length of time in which it took towns to raise the necessary funds to implement such developments. For example, in Merthyr Tydfil the amount needed to implement these two sanitary facilities cost approximately £110,000; 34 and the total expenditure on public health developments in South Wales between 1848 and 1871 was £1,194,750.35 However, according to Hamlin, these delays have also been caused by the local boards of health who were nervous to set out and make decisions on what sanitary systems were to be adopted. Hamlin makes reference to the implementation of sewage purification systems and explains that from the 1860s onwards numerous patentees and engineers came forward claiming that they had designed an effective system to purify waste, but in reality there was a ‘growing list of towns in which sewage treatment plants had failed to live up to expectations in terms both of operating costs and effluent quality’.36 Consequently, local boards of health were afraid to make a decision in regards to sewage plants for fear of wasting money unnecessarily on a defective system. Evidence of this reluctance can be found in Rammell’s sanitary report on Cardiff. In this report, Rammell states that prior to his visit to Cardiff, the commissioners had advertised and received thirteen designs of general sewerage systems; and that the commissioners had forwarded these designs to London so that ‘the judgment of the commissioners might be 32Christopher

Hamlin, ‘Predisposing Causes and Public Health in Early Nineteenth-Century Medical Thought’, Social History of Medicine, 5.1 (1992), 43-70 (p.44). 33Christopher Hamlin, ‘Muddling in Bumbledom: On the Enormity of Large Sanitary Improvements in Four British Towns, 1855-1885’, Victorian Studies, 32.1 (1988), 55-83 (p.62). 34MH13 125, 462/68, On Harpur see Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, ‘Merthyr Tydfil: The Politics of Survival’, Llafur: Journal of Welsh Labour History, 2 (1976), 25; and ‘Death of Mr. Harpur, C.E.’, Engineering, 46 (1888), 480, cited in Hamlin, ‘Muddling in Bumbledom’, p.62. 35These and other details are based on an analysis of the sums sanctioned in PRO MH13 (A.H. Williams, op. Cit., passim), cited in Jones, The Observers and the Observed, p.35. 36Hamlin, ‘Muddling in Bumbledom’, pp.67-68. 47

aided by the professional opinion of Mr. Cubitt, who had considerable knowledge of the place, having been concerned in the construction of the Bute Docks’.37 Notably, at the time of writing his report, Rammell stated that a decision was still waiting to be made as to what sewerage system should be implemented.38 In Hamlin’s article, ‘Muddling in Bumbledon: On the enormity of Large Sanitary Improvements in Four British Towns, 1855-1885’, Hamlin also provides further evidence of how public health developments had nothing to do with commonsense responses to the filthy urban environment. For example, in Merthyr Tydfil in 1869 coal mining firm, Nixon and Correy filed an injunction against the Merthyr Board of Health because filth was continuing to pollute the river.39 The Merthyr Board of Health did go on to rectify this situation and arrange for the building of a sewage farm. But the first important point to make is that the Merthyr Board of Health were only responding to the injunction (and therefore implies that they did not consider polluting the river as the opposite of commonsense). Secondly, Nixon and Correy were not concerned with the filthy urban environment either, as their actions were akin to blackmail. Nixon and Correy wanted to open a new coal mine in the Merthyr district and this meant that they would need to have provided additional housing for workers – housing which would have been subject to rates and regulations of the Merthyr Boards. The injunction was supposed to entice the Merthyr Board of Health into making a business deal; Nixon and Correy wanted their new coal mine to be accepted as a separate district whereby they would be in control of their own public health processes – if the Merthyr Board of health accepted this offer, then Nixon and Correy would retract their injunction.40 However, as noted above, the Merthyr Board of Health did not succumb to this blackmail and instead arranged for the building of a sewage farm. Another factor to consider is the working classes and their role in public health reform. The nineteenth century working classes generally seem to be referred to as the ‘Great Unwashed’ – and therefore this image of the ‘filthy urban’ environment sits prominently in our recollections.41 However, this is not an entirely accurate description for workers of South Wales. A Dr Carte speaking to Rammell in 1850 said the Welsh ‘are naturally the cleanest people I ever saw. They are constantly washing their houses. A Welshwoman does not cease scrubbing from one day to 37Rammell,

Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Cardiff, p.27. Ibid., p.27. 39‘A.Taylor’s Report on Request for Sequestration’, MH 13 125, 349/169, ‘The Petition for the Division of the Board of Health District’, Merthyr Express, 27 November 1869, cited in Hamlin, ‘Muddling in Bumbledom’, p.62. 40Ibid., p.62. 41 J.K. Walton and A. Wilcox (eds), Low Life and Moral Improvement in Mid-Victorian England: Liverpool through the Journalism of Hugh Shimmin (Leicester, 1991), cited in Sigsworth and Worboys, ‘The public’s view of public health’, p.237. 38


another’.42 Sigsworth and Worboys have also made this point about individuals from working class areas such as Sheffield. They identified that certain working class areas co-operatively cleaned streets and yards; and they also highlighted the attention women placed on cleaning their front door step – a common feature throughout working class areas.43 Therefore, the idea that the working classes lived in a filthy urban environment is not entirely accurate. Furthermore, Sigsworth and Worboys located evidence of working class individuals who understood public health problems during the 1850s and 1860s as pollution caused by industry. 44 The working classes also had an understanding of cholera and during the 1849 cholera outbreak residents in the village of Attercliffe in Sheffield went through a thorough cleansing process on their homes in order to wipe out any contagion.45 The local fire brigade, who were appointed by the local authorities to carry out official decontamination cleaning were an unwelcome sight to the villagers. The villagers were also displeased when the fire brigade confused contaminated and uncontaminated houses; used unclean and noxious canal water as part of their cleaning processes; and broke a trough which apparently supplied clean water to the village. 46 Other members of the working classes in Sheffield also had a different theory on Chadwick’s sanitary proposals and its relationship with Cholera – for some, sanitary reform was not a commonsense response to dangerous diseases such as cholera, instead it was simply a ‘diversion’ to attract attention from the real issue of large numbers of the population dying from starvation each year.47 A point which ties in with the Merthyr working class spokesman who said that what people really wanted was more meat.48 Essentially, it’s a reinforcement of the theory that the working class mode of life contributed to the high mortality rates. It corresponds with the arguments put forward by Farr, Dr Simon and Dr Dyke who also argued that social conditions were more harmful to an individual’s health. Consequently, when both the working classes (the supposed filthy urban inhabitants) and the medical professionals of the nineteenth century argue that disease and death was associated with social conditions more than dirt, it is perhaps more difficult to view Chadwick’s ideas as sensible or as a triumph. 42Rammell,

Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Merthyr Tydfil, p.579. M.J. Daunton, House and Home in the Victorian City: Working Class Housing, 1850-1914 (London, 1983), pp.11-37, cited in Sigsworth and Worboys, ‘The public’s view of public health’, p.248. 44 On river pollution see: Wohl, Endangered Lives, pp.233-56; B. Luckin, Pollution and Control: A Social History of the Thames (Bristol, 1986); Christopher Hamlin, The Science of Impurity: Water Analysis in Nineteenth Century Britain (Bristol, 1990), cited in Sigsworth and Worboys, ‘The public’s view of public health’, p.241. 45Report of the Committee appointed by the Town Council to enquire into Sanitary Proceedings at Atterfcliff (Sheffield, 1849), cited in Sigsworth and Worboys, ‘The public’s view of public health’, p.243. 46Ibid., p.243. 47Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 4 August 1848, cited in Sigsworth and Worboys, ‘The public’s view of public health’, p.249. 48 Rammell, Report to the General Board of Health on [...] the town of Merthyr Tydfil, pp.3-5; cited in Grant, ‘Merthyr Tydfil in the mid-nineteenth century’, p.585. 43


We cannot ignore the fact that there is a link between disease and dirt; however, Chadwick overshadowed the findings of the medical profession who argued that social conditions such as food, housing and work, were more probable causes. Consequently, Chadwick stood in the way of social reform at that time. Furthermore, it is difficult to hail public health reform as a triumph due to the long draw out delays in implementing sanitary measures. The adoption of sanitation systems was managed by anxious boards of health and manipulated by scheming businessmen acting for personal gain. Overall, whilst the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;sanitary ideaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; provides our society with features such as clean drinking water and functioning sewer systems; it seems to have borne out of illogical reasoning, ignoring both the concerns of the people it attempted to assist (the urban working classes) and the medical profession who had a better understanding on what caused disease and contagion.


Conference Report: ‘Berlin, Paris, London and Beyond - Ongoing Projects, Forthcoming Events and Future Publications’ - One-day Communism Studies Seminar By Ceri Carter On 28 March 2013 the Twentieth Century Communism journal convened their one day Communism Studies seminar at the Atrium campus of the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales). The conference entitled, ‘Berlin, Paris, London and beyond – ongoing projects, forthcoming events and future publications’ was organised by our very own Dr Norry LaPorte. The day was split into four sessions, three of which were dedicated to the manifestation of communism in three different areas of Europe; the Weimar Republic (Germany between the wars), Spain and Paris. The fourth session took the form of a round table discussion with the aim of discussing new projects and work that had been inspired by the conference. The first sitting of the day, headed 'Werner Scholem and German Communism under the Weimar Republic: New Biographical Research & Eyewitness Testimony', began with an account by Ralf Hoffrogge (University of Potsdam) of the political life of Werner Scholem. Scholem was a leading Jewish figure in the German Communist (KPD) Party during the Weimar Republic. Hoffrogge's paper delves into the complicated life that Scholem led as both a Jew and a communist; a life that is only now just being remembered for what he did for the party instead of because of his Jewish background. A Trotskyite and a renegade, Scholem was expelled from the party for aligning himself with the Trotskyite element; a section that were seen as traitors in East Germany. Hoffrogge's paper is an enlightening study of Scholem's life focusing on his life as a communist. This paper was followed by accounts from Renate Scholem, daughter of Werner Scholem, and Hanno Fry both communist exiles in Britain in the 1940s. Held in an internment camp on the Isle of Man in 1940, Renate was surrounded by other communist exiles who subscribed to the Stalinist way of thinking who viewed Renate with suspicion because of her father's links with Trotskyism. Much of this section was based upon Renate's experiences as a


communist exile in Britain and her memories of her father and life in Germany; however, we were regaled with a brief overview of Fry's life after he moved to Scotland at the aged fifteen, coming from a non-political Jewish bourgeois family in Germany and his stint in the International Youth Club that had affiliations to the Free German Youth, a communist organisation, until he met Scholem at an AGM in London. They were drawn together when Fry supported Scholem in a dissenting remark made during the meeting. Scholem also engaged the seminar with an anecdote of when she met Trotsky as well as some poignant moments of her life; such as when her Stalinist husband forced her to have an abortion. The session was neatly rounded up by discussant, Ben Fowkes (London), whom gave a summary of the route which communism took in Weimar Germany. Fowkes highlights that factionalism was a major problem facing the communists in the Weimar Republic; this coupled with the disgruntlement with the control exerted by the International Communist Party exuded a lack of unity that Fascism was able to capitalise on during the hard times of the twenties and early thirties. The second session moved closer to home with a look at communism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The session began with a paper by Adria Llacuna (Manchester and Barcelona), entitled ‘The crisis of the liberal project and the rise of new political responses in interwar Europe: communism and the fascist New Order’, which explores how communism has been studied and researched in the years since the Spanish Civil War. During the 1950s, there were too many interpretations of Spanish communism; the first official history of the Spanish Communist Party did not come about until the 1960s, similar to the history of the British branch of the party. However, after the death of General Franco in 1975, few Spanish historians took it upon themselves to study the history of the left; despite there being plenty of opportunity to do so. It was the 1980s that saw a rise in interest in Spanish Communist history; and the nineties saw less restrictive access to the Spanish National Archives allowing the normalisation of Communist Studies in Spain. Much of the talk - focused on the rise in the study of leftist history in Spain, rather than the history of the communist party in Spain. However, Llacuna does shed light on the extensive research that is presently being conducted by Grup d'Estudis República i Democràcia (GERD)1 on communism during General Franco's regime. The discussant for this session was Glamorgan's Sharif Gemie who gave a brief overview of the recent political history of Spain. Gemie highlights the detrimental effect that the forty year dictatorship of Franco had on historical debate.

Project run by the University of Barcelona <> [accessed 1 July 2013]. 1


After lunch, Tim Rees (Exeter) opened up the third session with a paper entitled ‘Paris in the 1930s: capital of communist exiles – a new project'. Much of communist historiography places Moscow at the centre, governing international communist ideology from its Russian hub; Rees argues that this was not the case. The new project works from the perspective that international communism was more like a web with numerous nuclei - Paris being one of them. 2 France became an important centre for Spanish communism and played host to many Spanish communists in exile. At one point, the French Communist Party was the largest communist party outside of the U.S.S.R. Rees' paper really emphasises how underestimated the importance of Paris was as a communist centre. Paris was also the central place of discussion for Thomas Beaumont (Bristol) in his talk 'Communists, Paris and the Popular Front'; particularly focusing on Parisian railway workers in the 1930s. Although railway workers are synonymous with political unrest and were seen as highly communised post-Second World War; the railway workers of Paris were surprisingly absent from the French General Strike of 1936 despite forming the largest part of the French Communist Party. Beaumont claims that had the French railway workers gone on strike with the rest of the Popular Front, the strike of 1936 would have been revolutionary. Kevin Morgan (Manchester) rounded off session three as discussant, bringing forth his opinion to the two presentations. Although he agreed that Paris was an important centre for communism, he argues that it was a subordinate centre and sanctioned by Moscow itself; and prior to Paris, Berlin was a strong nucleus for communist activity. The day was concluded with the roundtable discussion you would expect from the usual conference format; this being a conference hosted by a journal. Much of the dialogue focused on the future of the journal and associated events. The day overall was enjoyable, with lunch and refreshments being provided, and in true ‘Glamorgan History’ fashion- the pub beckoned afterwards. To an outsider with basic knowledge of communist history, the day was enlightening and the talks fascinating and informative. Each speaker brought with them a passion for their subject that lifted their papers to being more that just academic prose. With this passion and the autobiographical detail brought by Renate Scholem and Hanno Fry, the conference was a roaring success, stimulating much debate in the questions that followed each session as well as the roundtable discussion. All in all, a very successful conference.

The project is called The French Connection: France and International Communism, 1919-1940 and is in collaboration with Thomas Beaumont of Bristol University. 2


History from the Forest  

University of South Wales Student History Journal Volume 1: Issue 2

History from the Forest  

University of South Wales Student History Journal Volume 1: Issue 2