AbstractsWomens Studies

Infrastructures of Injury| Railway Accidents and the Remaking of Class and Gender in Mid-Nineteenth Century Britain

by Amanda Armstrong-Price

Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Year: 2016
Keywords: European history; English literature; Rhetoric
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2068142
Full text PDF: http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10086071


As steam-powered industrialization intensified in mid-nineteenth century Britain, the rate and severity of workplace injuries spiked. At the same time, a range of historical dynamics made working class people individually responsible for bearing the effects of industrial injury and carrying on in the aftermath of accidents without support from state or company. By the midcentury, railway accidents were represented as events that put on display the moral character of individual rail workers and widows, rather than — as in radical rhetorics of previous decades — the rottenness of state or company bureaucracies. Bearing injury or loss in a reserved manner came to appear as a sign of domestic virtue for working class women and men, though the proper manifestations of this idealized resilience varied by gender. Focusing on dynamics in the railway and nursing sectors, and in the sphere of reproduction, Infrastructures of Injury shows how variously situated working class subjects responded to their conditions of vulnerability over the second half of the nineteenth century. These responses ranged from individualized or family-based self-help initiatives to — beginning in the 1870s — strikes, unionization drives, and the looting of company property. Ultimately, this dissertation tells a story about how working class cultural and political practices were remade through the experience of injury and loss.