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As the focus of this essay will be the early nineteenth century, it will therefore have a focus on the education of men, rather than women, although aspects of gender differences will be discussed throughout. This focus is due to the existence of separate spheres of Victorian society.
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However, despite education primarily being targeted at the middle classes at this time, this push in adult education would actually have affected the working classes too, as many forms took place out in public areas and were more openly accessible by those of lower status, where the private education already accessible to higher classes was not. In order to explore these changes in and varieties of adult education, the essay will discuss the different societies that were formed in the early nineteenth century, the development of the institutes, popular science and public lectures both of which involved an element of showmanship otherwise unseen in education , and the development of museums and libraries, in order to show developments in the rise of adult education.
However, in order to look at all of these elements of education, the central focus of the essay will be the Literary and Philosophical Societies, which can be related to the other elements of adult education, and this will be discussed throughout. In addition, due to the public nature of scientific education in the period, the essay will also need to examine urban history and the structure of the city, to show who would have access to each form of education.
In order to complete this essay, it will draw upon the works of a number of historians, such as Thomas Kelly, to highlight the historiographical arguments and discussions relating to adult education, particularly those discussing the Literary and Philosophical Societies henceforth, the Lit and Phil Societies.
These works will take a variety of forms including books, journal articles and websites, so that both introductory and specialist texts can be examined.
The Victorian city was a very different type of space to the society that had existed when people had more commonly lived in countryside in the early nineteenth century, which allowed different interactions to become possible as people migrated into the cities, particularly as different areas of a city were designed for different social classes and genders. Different areas of the city, aimed at the different social classes, had different purposes, ranging from industrial to consumerist. The growth in consumer culture in the cities would also have begun to end the separation of genders within the city, as women would be encouraged to leave the home, and, therefore, the private sphere, and enter into public life for this purpose.
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Notably, the entertainment and information industries sometimes 1 Gunn, S. These societies were designed to organise social life, as structure was favoured by Victorian society, largely due to the changing awareness of time within the cities, that coincided with changes to whom space was accessible to. Other, less successful branches were founded in Liverpool and Leeds , although these did not remain open for long. It was the Manchester Lit and Phil, founded in , that became a model for all future branches of the society across the country.
Other important branches of the society were founded in Newcastle and Leicester — one of the later branches to be founded. The Newcastle branch was initially opened as a conversation club, with discussions supported by a large book collection, composed mainly of non-fiction — the collection did not widen to include fictional novels until , despite the society name suggesting the discussion of literature. Examples of these public lectures can be seen 8 Kelly, T. Of Manchester, 3rd Ser. IX, London 11 Litandphil. Because each society allowed only specific memberships, the different classes each had their own scientific societies.
For those of a higher class, there was the Middle Class Scientific and Cultural Society, while for the lower classes, the need and want for scientific education was met by the Working Class Scientific Societies.
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Both of these societies operated through a system of offering public lectures about science, alongside formal classes for those who were able to afford them. They additionally each published their own scientific journals, which would both have been collected by the Lit and Phil societies as part of the scientific collections of their libraries.
The Cambridge Urban History of Britain: 1540-1840 Volume 2
Contrary to common belief and historical discourses, men were not the only ones to attend these lectures, and women were in fact also in attendance of these events, particularly in the mid Victorian period. They suggest that women had more of an interest and role in science than is commonly referenced, thus giving a feminist approach to 12 Barclay, J. Wilkinson, T. This is alternative to the commonly perceived passive and non-scientific image of women, which was perpetuated in the period by the male scientific elites in order to distance women from the science profession. Yet, the article suggests that women were actually much more interested in self-education as adults than commonly thought.
Scientific theatres were accessible to the public, particularly in the earlier part of this period. In Liverpool, for example, there were 39 formal institutions giving this form of presentation to the public before Other public exhibitions in these locations gave examples of mesmerism as a treatment, which although disproven already in France, gained ground in Britain through these lectures to the public.
Many libraries opened during this period were owned by the Literary and Philosophical societies, as they had the aim of creating collections of scientific journals, and collecting books related to the conversations held within. With the expansion of the museums, however, came a reduced need for the Lit and Phil libraries, and this led to the merging of the Derby branch of the Lit and Phil with the Derby Museum in These societies created links between the other elements of adult education, which is their central importance here.
Additionally, they acted as a cultural stimulant in that they encouraged the mixing of social groups to a large extent, particularly later in the period as memberships became more affordable due to rising wages and increased prosperity, and 20 Secord, Victorian Sensation, pp. These societies also allowed for debate and discussion, which helped to narrow down arguments, and enabled the opinions of all involved to be heard.
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