Victorian Biography Reconsidered: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Hidden Lives

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Victorian Biography Reconsidered: A Study of Nineteenth-Century 'Hidden' Lives. Juliette Atkinson. Abstract. In , Virginia Woolf called for a more inclusive. Oct 21, Victorian Biography Reconsidered. A Study of Nineteenth-Century 'Hidden' Lives. Juliette Atkinson. Overturns preconceptions about Victorian.

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer your personally identifiable information to third parties other than to those trusted third parties who assist us in operating our website, conducting our business, or servicing you, so long as those parties agree to keep this information confidential. These rare examples of Greek business life-writings can be analyzed in the context of relevant texts on American businessmen, known as rugs to riches examples. In the 20th century, the model of the self-made American entrepreneur originating from the land of unbounded opportunities created an influential political and economic model around the world.

In the s, when Americanism and anti-Americanism was developing in Greece, new cultural and consumption habits were introduced into Greek life in the frame of the expanding American business world. Quite often a biography is a laudatory text and the lives of various businessmen make no exception to that. The challenging question for biography is not whether the subject is role model whatever this may mean, but rather what we might learn from a study of a specific life. To set one great life center stage can be read as promoting a particular political agenda or consolidating a hierarchical, anti-egalitarian social structure.

Biography always reflects and provides a version of social politics even if there is a nationalist agenda behind the collective. The popularity of certain biographies in different countries, periods and cultures, biographies of saints, naval heroes, religious and political leaders, athletes, rock stars, businessmen provide insights into that society; the values, the visible and invisible men and women.

Biography by choice gives value to one person by compiling different non-homogenous sources. Gay examines the Victorian view of human nature, of self-control and the importance of the agent. The emergence of self-control self-management in Man is manifested by channeling inner anger towards the pursuit of achievement and power. These views emerged in the nineteenth century and are interpreted by Gay as matching Christian values with a gendered social Darwinism.

Parallel Lives examine a series of exemplary lives in pairs aiming at comparing Greek and Roman culture. The compilation, however, of a life story may become a collection of biographies belonging to the same period, to the same profession, and grouped together in order to be compared, have a genealogy created and become a didactic example.

Such is the case of a series of biographies of American businessmen prepared by the Commercial and Financial Chronicle in the middle of nineteenth century. Interestingly, this was justified in a later American account:.

get link The ambitious Greek doctor compiled a corpus of exemplary lives of illustrious Greek men in several volumes, one of which was dedicated to merchants and bankers. The main didactic theme here is deprivation and thrift accompanied by the ethics of patriotism and a commitment to personal benefactions. There is no economic activity per se, but rather a private life committed to offering, donation, and bequeathal to the Greek nation.

Individual entrepreneurial paths and career patterns in Greek diaspora and the Greek state offer a vast ground to investigate the presence or absence of the biographical turn in Greek historiography.

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The typology of the businessman in a national and international context through a comparative and transnational prism, and its contribution to the configuration of markets in the Mediterranean can be analyzed through the identification of agency as an active intermediary of collective processes and the emergence of lived experience as a decisive parameter in our understanding of history. An interesting question to pose is why the biography of the businessman, with thriving Greek examples, such as maritime magnates, stumbles between oblivion and laudatory approaches or success stories.

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The didactic appeal of these works is under dispute. The tone was shifted to non-economic factors that determine the effectiveness of economic behavior as well as the evaluation not only of economic motives, but other conditions also that make economic activity possible.

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Not only independent biographies, but also biographical dictionaries and obituaries briefly narrate the life and work of the businessman. Most biographical dictionaries follow the nineteenth-century tradition that emphasizes the evolution of the nation-state and the role of individuals in it.

Thus, these dictionaries and their selection of content give an image of national and social reception in each country and in different historical periods.

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There is little material available of a biographical nature about Marcus Wallenberg, in the sense that there exist almost no sources recording his thoughts on personal matters. He was not given to introspection and did not leave after him any notes, or other reflections, on his life. Every time he expressed a personal opinion, it was addressed to a particular person, or was for a specific reason.

At the same time, they have often examined the life and deeds of businessmen without employing the tools of Economic Sociology or biography-writing.

Juliette Atkinson

One trend within this field of studies is to reassess these methodological issues by addressing and exploring relevant key themes, such as the typology of businessmen in a national and international context from a comparative angle, and their contribution to the configuration of the markets. Gras and Henrietta Larson since dedicated themselves to collecting and preserving the personal data of businessmen. Now biography in the area of Economic and Business History is often related to the recent historiographical turn from structures to agents. Biography-writing as a means of identifying, studying and interpreting the urban and bourgeois world has reinstated the businessman as a constituent member of civil society in modern times.

The quest for an integral interpretation of economic activities and the failure of explaining them by purely economic factors has highlighted the importance of culture and personal characteristics in identifying agency. The focus has shifted to non-economic factors that determine the effectiveness of economic behavior as well as to the reassessment of the economic environment that make economic activities possible. Quite often there is a generally accepted rule in the biography of the businessman that he formed a unique economic behavior which is gender defined male and constitutes an exemplary standard.

The biographical account of their business activity and its classification has often been a separate, each time, construction of national historiography that also defined social acceptance. The usual topics of this discussion usually concern family, company, markets and state, as well as technology. An enriched agenda on the biography of the businessman opens up to gender issues masculinity , regional studies, social mobility, social prejudices, ethnic and religious characteristics, as well as the iconic figure of the businessman.

Victorian Biography Reconsidered: A Study Of Nineteenth-Century 'Hidden' Lives

These examples were and are quite common in European and American literature; they are the rags-to-riches well-known success stories about Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, Morgan or Onassis. The common thread for writing biographies of public legends of business life is the commemorative spirit of Victorian biography.

A common feature in these cases is the authenticity of narrative details that lead to a truthful representation of life. The most common goal of such biographies is to bring out the feelings of admiration the biographers hold and to highlight their desire to follow these success stories In a similar pattern, Henry W. Sage was another successful businessman who traded lumber and invested in railroad and industrial securities; a self-made businessman who rose from humble but respectable origins to earn a position of wealth and power. His life was described as a man of determination and intelligence, who took advantage of the opportunities inherent in an open society with rich resources.

His rise came about not from a whim of fate or luck; it was always the result of the cultivation of virtues conducive to material prosperity: toil, meticulousness, saving, and sobriety, with an unyielding fear of luxury and extravagance. In a book published in , Irvin Wyllie traced the development of the gospel of material success from colonial days down to the Great Crash of Many Americans believed in this idea, and thousands of ill-paid clerks stuck to their desks throughout the nineteenth century, waiting for the reward that for the most never came.

In the s a number of US academics put forward a serious critique of this self-help ideology of nineteenth-century American literature on the self-made man myth. They comprise a plurivalent source of research and debate, and a corpus for raising several questions about the construction of self and its skills, the nature of the subject, the nature of language, the relationships between the reader and the writer, and their relationship with time.

Compared to the genre of life-writing, autobiography has attracted much more interest. Studies on Victorian autobiography have shown the way specific groups consolidated their power in the public sphere, providing at the same time valuable insights for the study of hidden lives and, in a general way, demonstrating how agents negotiate their ideas.

In addition to its social and cultural function, Victorian autobiography raised the question of whether Victorian life-writing tended to group autobiography and biography together, since many works of nineteenth-century auto biographies were hybrid. A consideration of several American autobiographers as cultural types can provide new ways of viewing this special genre in our literature. By regarding the creation of the autobiographical character in America as a cultural act, one observes that one of the ways in which Americans shaped their views of themselves was by attending closely to the dominant patterns of their culture.

English prose literatureth century--History and criticism. : Toronto Public Library

When a person writes his autobiography he translates a unique view of himself into the language of his culture, subjecting some part of his private self to public evaluation. Even when communal assumptions take the form of a concrete story, that tale must remain sufficiently flexible and suggestive to allow for repeated interpretation.

When it can no longer be reinterpreted to depict contemporary belief and explain present problems it must fall into disuse and be of interest only to the antiquarian. This notion of individual identity, in fact, may well be the central belief of our culture. With all its ramifications-personal responsibility, individual destiny, dissent, vocation and so forth, it forms the core of our being and the fabric of our history. A new interest about the life-writing genre seems to have been provoked partly by an interest in the questions of self and subjectivity, partly by the new concern for alternative forms of historiography, as, for example, race and gender, which have turned autobiography into a strong form of subaltern protest, self-assertion and identity-formation; 32 in other words, a convergence of literary, philosophical and psychological interests in the study of autobiography.

There are countries and historical periods by which autobiography has been granted a special authority, from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin first published in French in Paris in to the various autobiographies from the civil wars of Spain and Greece