Item – Thèses Canada

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McLaughlin-Jenkins, Erin,1956-
Common knowledge :the Victorian working class and the low road to science, 1870-1900.
Ph. D. -- York University, 2001
Ottawa :National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada,[2002]
4 microfiches.
Includes bibliographical references.
For late-century Victorians, science was everywhere part of the culture, but current studies have mainly been concerned with the cultural elite. This dissertation looks beyond prosperous Victorians by examining working-class interests in science and the availability of scientific information for working men and women. Though no clear framework for this kind of analysis existed, uncovering scientific activity in working-class communities was not so much a matter of constructing an entirely new framework, as it was of recognizing working-class alternatives to middle-class methods and sources. This shift in focus emphasizes local opportunities created within working-class communities for the acquisition and study of scientific knowledge, allowing for varying degrees of difficulty and affordability. The formal middle-class "high road" of official schooling, expensive reading materials, and memberships in prestigious societies corresponds to what I have designated as "the low road." The low road consisted of informal adult education, shared skills within families and communities, the working-class press, borrowed or used reading materials, cheap pamphlets, free lectures, mutual aid and reading groups, local science clubs, political groups, and the challenging pursuit of autodidactic studies. In the final analysis, two questions needed to be answered. How did impoverished workers with little formal education obtain and comprehend scientific ideas, and what did workers want with science? This was the central task of this study, and its completion opens up the borders of the history of science as much as it adds new dimension to working-class history. Based largely on autobiographical testimony, organizational records, and the commercial and political press, evidence demonstrates that scientific ideas and practices were widely available as both common knowledge and serious pursuit. Science was, for many working-class Victorians, a fundamental component of leisure, self-improvement, and class emancipation through increased participation in the cultural, intellectual, and sometimes political, life of the nation.