British Friendly Societies, 1750–1914 by S. Cordery

By S. Cordery

The 1st monograph in this subject considering that 1961, this publication offers an cutting edge interpretation of the pleasant Societies in Britain from the views on social, gender and political historical past. It establishes the relevant position of the pleasant Societies within the political activism of British employees, altering understandings of masculinity and femininity, the ritualised expression of social tensions and the origins of the welfare nation.

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Much is speculative, but the twentieth-century civil servant William Beveridge, one of the principal architects of the postSecond World War welfare state, dates the societies to 1555, to the Incorporation of Carters in Leith, Scotland. 51 The development of the societies within England followed no set pattern, except perhaps population concentration. The presence of manufacturing seems to have been one determining factor in the creation of friendly societies. 52 Recent research corroborates this interpretation.

40 The fraternal emphasis on brotherhood and mutuality evident in guilds and freemasonry supplied one component of a past on which the friendly societies drew organisationally and ideologically. The societies themselves alleged descent from a more distant, less concrete past to create legitimating myths of their foundation. 41 Some friendly societies boasted a Biblical heritage to parry charges of immorality that originated in elite fears of clandestine meetings and secret rituals. 44 Such august lineages would, members hoped, deflect criticisms of their covert gatherings.

92 The moral code of respectability, analysed in detail in Chapter 4, extended to speech as well as behaviour. ’ 95 The death of a member did not excuse wives from conforming to the moral code of societies. 96 Ethical standards reflected local variations, as the case of the Tideswell Humane Society showed. ’97 Rules attempted to control members’ behaviour in an effort to restrict the number of calls made on the sick fund. Friendly societies appointed stewards to call on the sick – for that reason sometimes called sick visitors.

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