Cover image for A man's place : masculinity and the middle-class home in Victorian England
A man's place : masculinity and the middle-class home in Victorian England
Tosh, John.
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Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 252 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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HQ1090.7.G7 T67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A study of the 19th-century middle class male. It shows how profoundly men's lives were conditioned by the Victorian ideal, and how they negotiated its many contradictions. It looks at the experiences of boyhood, married life, sex, and fatherhood, and illustrates these with case studies.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Tosh (history, Univ. of North London) uses primary sources to explore the contradictions inherent in 19th-century British masculinity. Many tensions lay beneath the British male's well-known veneration of home, family, and motherhood. Marriage was a prime factor in self-worth, but men were reared at elite public (i.e., private) schools to ignore or even despise women. Husbands were publicly seen as masters and the spiritual leaders of their homes and families, yet once married, men often sequestered themselves in dens and clubs, and whole categories of decisions (like child rearing) were left solely to wives and servants. Tosh traces the evolution of these tensions through the century, as the idealization of domesticity gradually decreased and marital and parental hierarchies evolved. Particularly interesting are the sections on child rearing, in which the father's role often led to estrangement and generational discord. Tosh convincingly defends his thesis that the era, instead of just being "the climax of masculine domesticity," was actually more complex. Not entirely exciting, but the scholarship is solid; for academic collections.ÄRobert Persing, Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Tosh (North London Univ.) is a welcome pioneer in his research on masculinity in modern Britain. His elegant exploration of the role of middle-class Englishmen in Victorian domesticity is provocative and, at least to a degree, persuasive. The limitation on its persuasiveness is inherent in the anecdotal nature of much of his evidence, enriched by more than 20 manuscript collections and unpublished memoirs. Tosh makes two major arguments. First, during the early and middle years of the 19th century, middle-class Englishmen became ideologically committed to domesticity. A mixture of Evangelical religion and unhappiness with modernity made such men turn homeward to find personal fulfillment. To be fully masculine men had to marry, raise families, and serve as the patriarchal leaders of their homes. This ideal always had practical and theoretical complications, e.g., to earn a livelihood men generally spent most of their time away from home. Second, this middle-class male enthusiasm for domesticity began to fade by the 1870s, largely because of changes in the legal and social status of women. During the late 19th-century, many middle-class Englishmen preferred to spend their time in "homosocial" activities with other men such as at clubs, and some never married. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. M. Fahey; Miami University