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A Respectable Trade

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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Mon November 17th, 2008, 12:55 pm

I'm sure there was quite a working relationship, but to engage in an affair, well, the wife has to be written right. Risk assesment.

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Post by Christina » Tue November 18th, 2008, 11:03 pm

I find all of this very interesting, and thank you for explaining, Divia.
I am sure it is far-fetched but I am wondering about something which may or may not be so. In England at that time slavery was seen as something abhorrent. It's true that English ships carried the slaves but England had banned slavery a long time before, and it was soon to be illegal for English ships to play any part in it. I think it was quite different in America and it was - in a self-righteous way, since at the same time we were treating little children as slaves, pushing them up chimneys and down mines and selling pauper apprentices - quite likely that an English woman (married to a nasty old man) could fall in love with a slave. I don't think it would be quite as unheard of in England at that time, as it was in America...
That kind of racism really didn't play a part in English life at the time. It was much worse in the 1950s. 100 years before that, many people of all kinds of ethnicities were accept in England...Class was a greater hindrance than race...
Just a thought...and I might be wrong.

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Post by Divia » Wed November 19th, 2008, 12:46 am

A woman's status and her reputation was everything. To risk losing that would mean certain death (Ok, I'm going a bit overboard..but bad nonetheless) Class lines were rigidly set, as were racial ones. Oh I suppose someone dared to cross them every once in a while, and they paid for it one way or another. I cannot say it never happened. But the likelyhood? small.
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Post by Christina » Wed November 26th, 2008, 12:22 am

Yikes, Divia...You really dislike this book, don't you :-)

I lack sufficient knowledge of the background to really argue for it. I just enjoyed it and perhaps was fanciful. I find it fascinating, however, to think of the different boundaries of the past. Taking the suffragettes, for example: the absolute outrage about members of the aristocracy joining that cause was so extreme. It was, as you write, 'certain death' as in being totally cut off from society and friends. The whole world at that point was so artificially balanced and friendships - on one level - so superficial. In the same way, the notion of a mistress/slave relationship would have been unthinkable. All the same, the occasional person who broke those boundaries is endlessly fascinating...

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Post by Tinuviel » Thu November 27th, 2008, 4:26 am

I think this is really different from what Gregory's books normally are; it's much less centered around royalty/nobility and I think that's interesting to read. I didn't find it as compelling as some of her other works, but I found it interesting in other ways. I don't know all that much about the time period, so I can't say much about the accuracy, but all in all I enjoyed it.

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Post by annis » Thu November 27th, 2008, 6:03 pm

For those who'd like to follow up the history of the slave trade in Britain, there is a useful website put together by the British Parliament
http://slavetrade.parliament.uk/slavetrade/history

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Post by Volgadon » Thu November 27th, 2008, 8:15 pm

[quote=""Christina""]I find all of this very interesting, and thank you for explaining, Divia.
I am sure it is far-fetched but I am wondering about something which may or may not be so. In England at that time slavery was seen as something abhorrent. It's true that English ships carried the slaves but England had banned slavery a long time before, and it was soon to be illegal for English ships to play any part in it. I think it was quite different in America and it was - in a self-righteous way, since at the same time we were treating little children as slaves, pushing them up chimneys and down mines and selling pauper apprentices - quite likely that an English woman (married to a nasty old man) could fall in love with a slave. I don't think it would be quite as unheard of in England at that time, as it was in America...
That kind of racism really didn't play a part in English life at the time. It was much worse in the 1950s. 100 years before that, many people of all kinds of ethnicities were accept in England...Class was a greater hindrance than race...
Just a thought...and I might be wrong.[/quote]


And a slave was right out, just because of class! A very rough generalisation of the class system goes like this:
English upper class (Europe ok-ish), then heathen upper class (like Indians or Turks and Arabs), then English middle class, foreign middle class, English poor, foreign poor.
An Indian ruler would have been better treated by Englishmen than one of their own chimney sweeps would have been.
England was very racist, a good fictional look at this is MacDonald Frazer's Black Ajax.
I'm sure some women did fly in the face of class and society, but things didn't fare well with them!!!

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Post by Christina » Sun November 30th, 2008, 11:40 pm

Hmm...Yes, indeed, a slave was right out because of class rather than race.

Do you think England really was very racist, Volgadon? I am not so sure. I think England was extremely elitist and that came from the poor as much as the rich. Servants liked to know their place; the 'working class' was proud of being working class and was as snobbish about it, in their way, as the aristocracy.

Now this might be way out of line but I feel that the racism - with regards skin colour - came in not from the upper classes, but from the 'working classes'. I suppose it depends very much on the era about which we're talking. I'm thinking of mid 19th century to the 1960s. In the mid-19th century, there was a great deal of immigration into the city where I live (Leeds). Many were Irish, Poles, Russian and Jewish people. They were generally poor and were generally accepted until a crime happened and people automatically blamed the 'foreigners'. That, though, was no different from today. It was that rough 'stick together as a group' thing that happens when people are crowded together and form a kind of feudal system of their own. (We're the white/English/salt of the earth people - we look after our own - it's the mindless thug mentality). At the same time, amid those poor people were those who didn't think that way, who simply accepted people as in the same boat as they were.
To move to the other end of the class system....Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were the most outspoke opponents of racism. They utterly respected people of all creeds, nationalities, skin colours or whatever else. Their biggest glitch was the Catholics but, even then, Prince Albert personally played a role in allowing the reopening of Catholic churches (banned since the Reformation). After Prince Albert's death, Queen Victoria loved her 'Munshi' - her Indian secretary, and truly respected him. Skin colour, in those days, wasn't an issue except among the people who were always looking for a scapegoat.

To my mind, England became racist at the same time as England became socialist...in the 1950s. Perhaps it was because the class lines were being erased but there was something in the psyche that demanded some kind of division so people who had once seen their enemies as the upper-classes, decided to make it 'johnny-foreigner' instead. It's all so ridiculous, really :-) and endlessly fascinating!!

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