Middle-Class Masculinity in Clubs and Associations: Manchester and Liverpool, 1800-1914.

  • Alexandra Mitchell

Student thesis: Phd


AbstractThe University of ManchesterAlexandra MitchellDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)Middle-Class Masculinity in Clubs and Associations: Manchester and Liverpool, 1800-1914.12 December 2011This thesis argues that clubs and associations provided a major arena for masculine social life in the period from 1800 to 1914. Using a range of sources from life writings and administrative records to photographs, drawings and buildings, the thesis presents a detailed picture of club life in the two provincial cities of Manchester and Liverpool. Examining the ways in which middle-class men wrote about associational culture, decorated their club houses and behaved in the company of other club men, the work highlights the complex and varied roles clubs and associations played in shaping masculinities. Club culture offered men the opportunity for homosocial friendship and fellowship, a respite from work but also access to business networks and political contacts. Above all, associational life allowed middle-class men to express their different tastes and identities, highlighting the diversity of masculine cultures in nineteenth-century provincial cities. The thesis explores the ways in which masculinity was constructed as a relationship between men in the context of the club, and reveals how the identity of the club man intertwined with his role at work and in the family. It argues that the function of the club shifted over the course of the male lifecycle, determined by a man's position as the head of a household and business. However masculine behaviour within the all-male association was also governed by its own codes of self-control; club life had no place for those men who drank too much, or failed in business. The buildings of nineteenth-century provincial club houses form an important part of this study. The work shows how the interiors of club buildings were decorated and arranged as a significant setting for male social life, and functioned as places where men could articulate and express their different identities via activities such as dining and smoking. The thesis also reveals how the architectural styles of the club buildings functioned as an outward expression of middle-class identity. By unpacking the different social, political and cultural influences which shaped the appearance of these institutions, it is argued that middle-class masculine culture in Manchester and Liverpool was diverse, fiercely independent and distinctive from the metropolis. Clubs and associations were not simply peripheral spheres for masculine social life, but major arenas in their own right.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHannah Barker (Supervisor) & Frank Mort (Supervisor)


  • Manchester
  • Middle Class
  • Liverpool
  • Masculinity
  • Clubs

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