Classics and Class in Britain, 1789-1917
is a Project

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Has principal investigator Edith Hall
Impact In the third millennium, two decades after the fall of the Berlin wall, social class has moved dramatically back up to the top of the social agenda. The project offers an intervention in the current shift towards recognising the enduring role of 'cultural capital' as a factor in the producing and defining of social class and therefore in the creation or limitation of life opportunities. The research I propose has the potential to effect a democratising paradigm shift in perceptions about the class connotations of the study specifically of ancient Greek and Roman antiquity. As Karl Galinsky put it in an important 1978 address on the future of Classics, 'the mystique of Greek as an elitist language and as Zeus' special gift to the upper stratum of the intelligentsia is not the image that we want to perpetuate'. This investigation of working-class sources on intellectual life could underpin a major revision of the public perception of the study of the art, thought, literature and history of ancient Greece and Rome, by emphasising their status as an inherited cultural property to which everyone has right of access. The information which I believe can be disinterred from the archives could make a significant impact on public perception of Classics through several types of route: 1) Subject-specific organisations such as the National Societies for the Promotion of Hellenic and Roman Studies. The project's findings would be invaluable when promoting the importance of Classical Studies on the school and university curriculum and in the cultural life of Britain, lobbying governmental ministers of education, and liaising with the press and the media. Pathways to impact through these organisations, in all of which I am already involved, would include: - articles posted on the news page of the JACT website ( and the JACT Magazine "Omnibus"; - an article in the Council of University Classics Departments online Bulletin (; - a feature on the news page of the Institute of Classical Studies website (; - an article in the magazine of the Iris Project (, an educational charity which supports the teaching of the languages and culture of the ancient world in to UK state schools. (2) Other media: - a BBC Radio Programme (I have contributed to more than a hundred BBC Radio programmes and two Arts Editors have already expressed interest in this subject-matter); - a CD of readings by the actors of Live Canon (, for use in schools; these young professional performers have expressed their willingness to donate their services free of charge; - a feature in the online newspaper of the Workers' Educational Association (of which I am an active member) "WEA News" ( News); - 3 video-recorded lectures uploaded onto a dedicated educational resource channel such as (3) Training of younger academics: - a dedicated session of the (very recently) AHRC-funded Public Engagement Training Programme for PhD students organised for the Classical Reception Studies Network by the Archive of Performances of Greek & Roman Drama at Oxford "Communicating Ancient Greece and Rome", the second year of which will overlap with the proposed schedule of this Speculative Route research proposal. In this public engagement training programme, my own department (RHUL Classics) is a major project partner and I am enrolled as a session leader. Through this programme it would be possible to enable twenty Classics PhD students to have access to the materials relating to the working-class experience of Classics which I hope my research will uncover, and to discuss ways in which to communicate them to the widest possible public. (4) The online accessibility of the scholarly outputs. (5) A substantial monograph of the core findings
Status Active
Identifier AH/J008907/1
abstract Recent research I have completed on Classics-informed responses to the 1857 Indian uprising against British rule, and to the campaigns for the abolition of slavery 1770-1865, has revealed that our perception of the historical relationship between Classics and the divisions between citizens on the criterion of social class is badly distorted because the crucial voices--those of the working class--have yet to be heard. Existing studies stress the role played by Classics in social exclusion, notably F. Waquet's 'Le latin, ou L'empire d'un signe' (1998) and C. Stray's fine 'Classics Transformed' (1998), but use only elite sources on intellectual culture and educational policy. My proposed research has the potential to effect a breakthrough. It will identify evidence which challenges the prevailing picture by consulting working-class subjects themselves in the period when class conflict in Britain was most acute and self-conscious. The hypothesis has been informed by the provocative approach to literary communities in J. Boreil (1985, ed.), 'Les Sauvages dans la cité: auto-emancipation du people et instruction des prolétaires au XIXe siècle', and Jonathan Rose's 'The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes' (2001). Although Classics is not the main focus of these studies, they suggest that Greek and Roman authors may have had a greater presence in the memoirs and cultural output of working-class writers than usually supposed. I plan to spend 25% of my work time for 3 years investigating the documents held in collections relating to the British working class, the sheer volume of which makes a full-time Research Assistant essential. S/he must possess expertise in Classics in order to identify responses to Greek and Roman culture. Many materials are by political activists such as leaders of the Co-operative movement, Chartism, and (later) the Independent Labour Party and Social Democratic Federation: my longstanding interest in ancient social class asll as Reception has enabled me to develop techniques for decoding standpoints on social issues, while my interest in Labour movement and adult education history has underpinned my active membership of the WEA. My method will be informed by Sheila Rowbotham's 1981 History Workshop formulation of an identity-based approach to reading the reactions of workers to the acquisition of knowledge in the University Extension movement, Burnett's emphasis on autobiography as a form of self-presentation where honesty may be sacrificed to other motives, and Lenhart's 'The Stamp of Class' (2006); this provides a model for identifying the 'distortion' of working-class subjectivity in texts through generic expectations. I have identified as promising 5 archives in the Greater London area, 12 in the rest of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, and 1 in Amsterdam (see Objectives). I am applying for funds to support travel, accommodation and subsistence for myself and my RA for 1 week in those outside London (i.e. for 13 research trips each), and to cover the costs of photocopying, scanning, printing, photography, and output support. Individuals who have agreed to act in the event of an AHRC award as members of an interdisciplinary panel of consultants include John Holford (History of Education), Chris Stray (History of Classical Education), Jonathan Rose (History of the Book), William Feaver (Art Historian and Museum Curator), Adam Roberts (19th-century English Literature) and Jonathan Zeitlin (Labour History and Sociology). I am applying for support of 2x1-day workshops for 8 people, in months 12 and 24, in order to present findings for analysis and feedback. Proposed outputs: a substantial critical edition with Introduction of selected materials, a full online catalogue of the findings, 3 lectures made available to the online community by being uploaded on a dedicated education resource channel e.g., a CD, radio programme and monograph.
Type Project
Label Classics and Class in Britain, 1789-1917
Title Classics and Class in Britain, 1789-1917

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