Tuesday 15 January 2019

Social Mobility And Immobility

On Sunday watching Everton v Bournemouth I was reminded that Everton was founded in 1878 when a new amusement, Association Football, was coming into fashion. By chance on the same day I was reading the Luton Times And Advertiser for 2nd May 1879 and the report of a society wedding attended by the great and good.

The bride, with a handsome portion, money that is, was the daughter of a local landowner, magistrate and Master of the Oakley Hunt. The first child of the marriage, a daughter, went on to marry a major landowner, magistrate, Master of the Brayton Hunt who became a Member of Parliament in the Conservative Party.

They were close to another of that kind, a William Middleton, nicknamed "Bay", Master of the Pytchley Hunt, who is famed with being close to Elizabeth, (Sisi), Empress of Austria, who turned up at the Grafton Hunt by Daventry with a dozen horses and hunted far and wide in England and Ireland. Bay was alleged to be the natural father of Clementine Hosier, later Churchill.

At that time a cousin of bride's was living close to the Everton ground, working as a watch maker, who died early leaving a penniless widow and child forced to return to her family of skilled workers and become more or less a household servant for the rest of her days. It is all about Social Mobility, as the sociologist said when he was knocked off his bike by a Rolls Royce.

It is fascinating that with a great deal of the local press of the past now available online instead of the weeks and months of travelling and searching, it is possible to see life in the provinces as it was seen to them and not just in the major London press or the prejudiced and limited sources of the academics and theorists of the past.

There are others matters, unmentioned in most history. One is the huge impact the invention and rapid application of wireless telegraph had in communications. I noted that the first indications in the UK that something had gone badly wrong in the British cavalry in the Crimea in late 1854 came from the Russian telegraphs and not from the government.

Quite suddenly there was an immediacy for contact and information sourcing which must have made a radical difference in many fields. One was that shipping intelligence was available saying where the ships had been, where they were and when and where they arrived.

What of the now? Could it be that with this vast store of information to be had on the click of a button we find out that much of what we are told about history and the theorizing of so many of our university and other historians has been based on flimsy and inadequate information and evidence?

It does make me wonder. We are said to have had a long depression in the agricultural industry in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Yet estimating the costs of all the Hunts and hunting and the extent when it was a "must" for the upper landowning classes could this must have impacted on the investment needed for the land. Especially, if you take the horse racing into account.

Instead of money going into improving the land and agricultural production we imported the added food we needed for a growing population while the land became a playground for the equestrian class.

In the media today the trade figures are not looking good and there is all the debate about austerity, budget balancing and the rest. While watching the football I learned that eleven players on the field for one team on Sunday had cost £252 million in fees let alone what they, and their agents were paid.

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