Mary Barton caused a furore when first published in October 1848. Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Tale of Manchester Life,’ with its no-holds-barred depiction of the vast gulf between the cotton masters and their ‘clemmed’ (starving) mill workers, sparked a furious debate in Cottonopolis. Was Gaskell’s novel true to life? Did Mary Barton, as its detractors claimed, exacerbate tensions between the classes rather than promoting greater understanding?
You can find out more in my special feature on Mary Barton in the November issue of History Today.
My book Narrow Windows, Narrow Lives looks at the reality of everyday life for workers in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution in Lancashire. Remember to order early for Christmas!
Image: The Dinner Hour, Manchester. Engraving by R. Kent Thomas (1816-1884.) for Lancashire by Grindon, Leo H., (Seeley & Co., 1892.)