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Title: Falkirk in the Later Nineteenth Century: Churchgoing, Work and Status in an Industrial Town
Authors: Guasp, Deborah
Supervisor(s): Bebbington, David William
Jenkinson, Jacqueline
Keywords: secularisation
nineteenth century
Issue Date: Dec-2012
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: In the years following the Religious Worship Census of 1851, there was a general increase in anxiety about the state of working-class churchgoing. Many prominent church leaders and social commentators believed that rapid industrialisation and urbanisation had led to the ‘alienation’ of the working classes from the practice of religious worship. The working classes were largely seen as ‘irreligious’ and not interested in aligning themselves to the customs of the rising middle classes who were seen as the stalwarts of the churches. The later nineteenth century was a time of anxiety for many clergy, and prominent social investigators, such as Charles Booth, carried out studies into the extent of poverty amongst various sections of society. A growing recognition of the problem of poverty led to some considering that financial disadvantage was a barrier to the churchgoing habits of the working classes. However, these ‘pessimistic’ perceptions of working-class churchgoing could originate from very different interpretations of the new industrial world, and from different conceptions of human nature. A large part of Karl Marx’s legacy has been his linking of ‘irreligion’ to the oppression of the ‘proletariat’ under industrial capitalism and Frederick Engels legitimised Marx’s theories with his 1845 book on the Condition of the Working Classes in England. However, part of the problem of interpreting Victorian affiliation to the churches is that so much effort has gone into either supporting or refuting the Marxist view amongst historians that the actual purpose of the enquiry has been somewhat lost. There has developed in recent years a rather disconnected debate with the ‘revisionist’ case the strongest and the belief that churches were middle-class institutions overturned by a recourse to ‘social composition analysis’. In effect, the revisionists have employed the use of the occupational analysis of churchgoers from which to discern the social ‘class’ make up of individual churches, which has provided evidence for widespread and significant working-class churchgoing. However, when this methodology is investigated, it is not hard to find critics of the use of occupational titles as a guide to nineteenth-century social ‘class’. This study is an attempt to look at churchgoing from a point of view that does not rely on occupational labels as the indicator of the social make-up of churches. Rather, it employs the use of the Scottish valuation rolls, which provided the official rented value of all properties, as a tool from which to develop a wide-ranging analysis of churchgoing, work and status in a nineteenth-century industrial town. It is, in large part, a study of housing and employment structures as gauged from a systematic analysis of the valuation rolls, the results of which are then measured against the four main Presbyterian churches of the town. The subject of the research is Falkirk because it experienced the transition from a traditional to industrial economy needed to evaluate the impact of industrialisation on working-class churchgoing. The study spans 1860 to 1890 and evaluates both points in time. It is effectively a historical investigation into the social and occupational structure of Falkirk town householders and how the main Presbyterian churches of the area reflected this societal formation. It naturally includes a large component of how social ‘status’ was ordered amongst the core householder population in terms of work, social relations, property and churchgoing. In addition, the methodology employed in the form of property valuations has produced a critique of the traditional system of classification by occupation and somewhat challenged its reliability.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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