Class Structure in Victorian England
For people in Victorian England, the quality of daily life rested on an underlying structure determined by social class. The concept of class did not solely depend on the amount of money that people had, but it did depend on the source of their income, as well as on birth and family connections. Most people were understanding and accepting of their place in the class hierarchy. Railroads designated different cars for first class, second class, and third class, and passengers knew just where they were to sit. If a hard working man had just won a lot of money at the races, and could afford a first class ticket, he still would not dream of riding home in the first class car. Class was also revealed in their manners, speech, clothing, education, and values. Classes lived in separate sectors and also observed varying social customs ranging from religion to courtship to the names and times of their meals. Victorians believed that each class had its own standards, and people were expected to adhere to the rules that were set for their class. People thought that it was very wrong to behave like someone from a class above or below one's own.
England had only two major classes: The aristocrats (those who inherited land and titles), and the commoners (everyone else). Still, most Victorians knew that their society was three-tiered. The working class' work was more visible in society. Their labor was very physical and dirty, which showed every day in their clothes and their hands. Most people of the working class were paid a daily or weekly wage. Men of the middle classes did the clean work, which normally included mental, not physical work. They were usually paid a monthly or yearly salary. The elite included the aristocracy and the landed gentry. Their income came from inherited land or investments, and as the saying goes, "It takes money to make money".
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