Sunday, December 4, 2011

Social Classes of Victorian England by Marie Higgins

A couple years ago I ran across a movie I’d never heard of before called “North & South”.  My first thought was this was the same tv series that Patrick Swayze had played in.  On closer inspection, I noticed how wrong I was.  Because I’m a huge fan of historical romance, especially the Victorian England era, this story intrigued me.  I watched it…and was IN LOVE!
The love story was wonderful and so romantic.  I grew along with each character and felt their loss, their anger and confusion.  Not only that, I was educated on something I didn’t know.  I’ve done a lot of research over the years, and I never realized there was a North and South in England where each side ridiculed and looked down upon the other side—much like the North and South here in America did during the Civil War time.  The knowledge I gained from watching this movie made me want to learn more.

In the mid-Victorian period, there were different classes of people.  I’d already known about the upper class (Aristocracy) and the lower class (servants—or what’s called working class).  But I didn’t know much about the Middle-Class who were Factory owners.  During the Industrial Revolution, a great change took place in British culture.

The populace (many who included women and children) wanted to better their lives, so they sough employment in factories working 12-hour shifts.  The living conditions for these people were not good and many were starving.  These factors, along with various ideological principles by Britain’s intellectual community, provoked a crucial social evolution.  This caused rebellious behavior amongst the working class.  The working class of Britain, throughout the industrial revolution and through the Victorian age, acted in a defiant manner toward both the aristocracy and middle class. This behavior extended from the everyday activities of the workers to radical anarchist movements that categorized the underground.

Various ideologies arose from intellectuals and radicals of England, Ireland, and the French revolution.  Liberty, rights, equality, and revolution presented to the people who were then motivated to make a change.  Unfortunately, this revolution never occurred at this time because of the government.  The rebellious behavior by the working class was demonstrated in everyday life and justified by both the living and working conditions of workers.  This all took a toll on the British lower social order, but it was not pushed into a revolution. 

I found all of this information enlightening – and at the same time, disheartening to think people were treated in such a fashion.  Of course that is probably why I love “North & South” so much.  Or…could it be the hero in the story, Richard Armitage, who captured my interest?

YEAH! It was Richard. (grins)

For more information about the Industrial Revolution check out these links -

Please check out the giveaway I'm having for my Regency, "The Sweetest Kiss". Contest ends on Wednesday, Dec. 7th. Go to this link for more details -

Marie Higgins is a multi-published author of romance; from refined bad-boy heroes who makes your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. Visit her website / blog to discover more about her –


  1. I LOVE North & South, both the book and the mini-series (and Richard Armitage, too). Like you, I was not aware of the North/South divide in England during the Victorian era prior to reading the novel.

    Your post has me wanting to go and watch the mini-series again :-)

  2. I bought the movie for Christmas, Melissa. Writing this made me realize how much I want it part of my collection. lol

  3. Oooh, I know what you mean! I've discovered "North and South" a few months ago myself :D

  4. Thanks to Marie Higgins, author of the Regency romance, "The Sweetest Kiss" for sharing this article on Social Classes of Victorian England and this overview into the "North and South" conflict in England where each side ridiculed and looked down upon the other.

  5. North and South is one of my favorites. I could watch the final scene over and over. I wish more writers in historical fiction and romance would explore the differences between the North & the South in England. It's such a rich period of English history.

  6. Time to watch this movie again. I hate the industrial feel, but the story is great, and certainly a commentary on the times and what the workers suffered through.

  7. I loved North and South the novel for its complexity and its overview on the social issues of Industrial Britain in the 19th century. So I wanted the series to make my lessons on that period and that novel more interesting. Only watching my brand new DVD in 2008 I realized how beautiful the romance inside that novel was. And I started admiring Mr Armitage, and haven't stopped ever since. :-)
    Thanks for this intresting post and all the pics!

  8. My experience mirrored yours Maria. I happened upon the movie accidentally and then saw the the geographic/class difference for the first time. I have read a few of Elizabeth Gaskell's work and the working and middle class seem to be her main characters.
    Richard Armitage was a treat in that movie- my first notice of him too. Boy was I living under a rock!

    Thanks for the post!

  9. There's an underground movement on Twitter to have a Masterpiece season for Gaskell. They had a lot of success with Cranford, and I adored Wives and Daughters and of course, North and South. Her novel Mary Barton is perhaps one of the stronger comments on the industrial movement (from what I understand) and I've been looking for it in audio.

    Great post, and of course, the RA photos! Last year, I participated in a letter writing campaign to Masterpiece to show North and South. Maybe the Gaskell season will be reality soon!

  10. The 'invisible' geographical line runs east/west between London and Birmingham. It's amazing the attitudes between the two.

  11. I love North and South too. I want to get my hands on the book some time.

  12. I may come as even more of a surprise, then, for you Americans to learn that the North/ South divide still exists!

  13. The movie is good and of course RA is fabulous. I read the book and found I preferred the movie (there is a reference in the book that bothered me).


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