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‘The Million Go Forth’: Early Railway Excursion Crowds, 1840-1860

Major, Susan (2012) ‘The Million Go Forth’: Early Railway Excursion Crowds, 1840-1860. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The travelling masses on their railway excursions were a unique phenomenon in Britain in the 1840s and 1850s. Using a wide range of contemporary press evidence, now searchable online, this research offers new perspectives on the consumption of working class leisure mobility in the early Victorian period, combining cultural and business history. It focuses on the shaping and construction of the railway excursion crowd in Britain at a time of concern for crowd unrest. This study undoubtedly shows how the effects of powerful groups – railway companies, excursion agents, voluntary societies and church groups – who shaped the excursion crowd, are differentiated by the relative strengths of the forces at play at a particular location. In an innovative approach, it positions these powerful groups as early social entrepreneurs, seeking social as well as economic goals. It has also demonstrated an important use of branding as a tool during an earlier period than previously suggested. The role of Thomas Cook has been re-interpreted, he was clearly not the dominant figure so far assumed. For the first time sources have been found which give evidence for accounts of personal experiences on excursions. These uncover underlying themes such as feelings of dehumanisation in crowded cattle wagons and the attractions of sociability. Building on Canetti's analysis of crowd characteristics, this research further reveals aspects of the relationship between the new public spaces formed by the railway excursion, such as the travel space of the carriage or wagon and the station, and crowd behaviour, for example the occurrence of roof travel. Space at the destination was often contested and the research examines the way that powerful groups succeeded in influencing accounts of this contestation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Railway history, excursions, working class, nineteenth century.
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.561074
Depositing User: Ms Susan Major
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2012 12:14
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:01
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3112

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