Respectability and the London Poor, 1780–1870: Te Value o Virtue
signicant or the middle and upper classes; and to an increasing desire or privacy that lessened the signicance o the streets or sociability. Most o all,however, Shoemaker posits the changing relationship between the individualand the community as the crucial actor in lessening interpersonal confict and violence. He says that or all but the very poorest,
What one said or did in public, or what others said about you, became less importantthan what happened behind closed doors, or indeed one’s own individual sel-exam-ination. Increasingly, the individual was able to shape his or her own reputation without reerence to the wider public …A more modern notion o the individual developed … in which identity wasdetermined by the inner, ‘true’ sel, regardless o public opinion.
Shoemaker concludes that as distinctions between the public and private spheresbecame more rigid, reputation less important and the neighbourhood ability to police it less e cacious, the street crowd ‘lost its central place in London publiclie’, so that ‘By the end o the eighteenth century the age o the mob was over’.
Underlying these shis was urban growth, which, according to Shoemaker, ‘radi-cally altered patterns o public social interaction in eighteenth-century London.Owing to the rapid pace o population growth, economic change and socialmobility, a new kind o urban environment was created in which relationshipsormed in neighbourhoods and on the streets became less important than thoseorged in less public contexts’.
In concentrating on various kinds o street activities occurring throughoutthe century, Shoemaker brings his readers close to the tenor o plebeian lie.
Healso insists, quite rightly, that plebeian Londoners were not mere passive recipi-ents o new cultural notions and values trickling down rom on high.
Tat said,however, there are some undamental problems with the trajectory he describes.First, or all he insists that all classes contributed to shaping the cultural shishe identies, it is oen not clear in the book which class Shoemaker is discuss-ing – generic Londoners appear regularly. Nor, as Nick Rogers has noted, doesShoemaker adequately explain the plebeian agency he posits. As Rogers pointsout, ‘Gestures toward the decline o neighbourhood and its consequent eectupon public reputations remain gestures. o make the case a richer social geog-raphy o London is required’.
Finally, the evidence does not seem to bear outclaims that these shis had taken place or most plebeian people by the end o the eighteenth century. John Carter Wood has studied particular aspects o these shis, and thetimerame he posits diers rom Shoemaker’s. Focusing especially on plebeian violence in nineteenth-century England, Carter Wood charts the ways in whichtwo dominant mentalities o violence interacted through the century: what heterms the ‘civilizing’ (language idealizing ‘rationality and sel-restraint’) and the