Class Structure in Early Twentieth-century Salford
No view of the English working class in the first quarter of this century would be accurate if that class were shown merely as a great amalgam of artisan and labouring groups united by a common aim and culture. Life in reality was much more complex. Socially the unskilled workers and their families, who made up about 50 per cent of the population in our industrial cities, varied as much from the manual elite as did people in middle station from the aristocracy. Before 1914 skilled workers generally did not strive to join a higher rank: they were only too concerned to maintain position within their own stratum. Inside the working class as a whole there existed, I believe, a stratified form of society whose implications and consequences have hardly yet been fully explored. Born behind a general shop in an area which, sixty years before, Frederick Engels had called the ‘classic slum’, I grew up in what was perhaps an ideal position for viewing the English proletarian caste system in all its late flower.
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