The range of topics in this collection--ancestry and childhood, education, family relationships, work, religion, politics, leisure--cover all the most important aspects of working class life and experience. This rich collection reveals the economic life, diverse experiences and activities of the 19th century working class in Britain.
A striking illustration of the overlap between the oral and the written traditions, autobiographies constitute the vast majority of all books written by the working class in the 19th century. They reflect the rapid spread of literacy and the realization of its value as a means of communication with a wider audience beyond the local community. These writings provide not only a formal record of living conditions but also the people's own view of their lives presented in ways that may often contradict the version given in history books.
From military and maritime adventures, spiritual memoirs, thieves' tales and other reminiscences of low life, to accounts of self-improvement and the passionate pursuit of knowledge, the autobiographies create a vivid picture of the humanity of working people. They assert the right of the laboring poor to make their own history.
Part One: 1792-1889
Part Two: 1890-1920
Complete Collection: 34 reels