By Andrew Holman
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Additional resources for A Sense of Their Duty: Middle-Class Formation in Victorian Ontario Towns
In the 18505 and 6os, Canada inherited a middle class (in name at least) through British immigration. British travel writers in these years encouraged people of the middling ranks to emigrate to Canada, not for the goal of social mobility to some higher rank but for the purpose of consolidating their own precarious, middling social status. In some respects, Canada was seen i8 A Sense of Their Duty as an auxiliary British social arena for a new generation of struggling respectables. In Canada, they supposed they could recreate the conditions of middle-class life they had enjoyed in Britain.
Written in 1936, Palm's treatment of Canadian events is notably cursory, but the pages that he devotes to Canada in The Middle Classes, Then and Now are significant if for no other reason than their uniqueness: besides Palm, no historian focused especially on the Victorian Canadian middle class as a class before the 19705, and very few have since. " Even so, Canadian historians since then have not pursued the historical study of class with evenness. The dominant concern among social historians in the 19705 and 8os was to unearth and give voice to the past's large numbers of inarticulate, focusing in particular on the working class.
For a large majority of people in Canada, the United States, and Britain, work was necessary for survival. Those who would not or did not work — the destitute and the idle rich - were located at the extremes of the social order: they were completely dependent on or completely independent of the workings of mainstream society. These groups were labelled moral failures: neither group contributed productive energy or material to the society of which it was a part; both groups drew some support (in the form of alms or financial gain from idle investment and loan interest) from the labour of others.