Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Material Worlds of the Idle and the Industrious
This thesis explores middling reform-minded representations of plebeian children’s material worlds in England from 1720 to 1780. Specifically, it examines depictions of chattel and place in imagery of children, to convey messages aligned with the reform initiatives of the eighteenth century. Using the Old Bailey Proceedings, prints by William Hogarth, and novels, it argues that contemporary concerns about idleness, vagrancy, consumerism, and delinquency, were reflected in the way the middling sort conceived of plebeian childhood. Ultimately these representations of plebeian children followed two major narratives: industry or idleness. If poor children were not industrious, they were idle. The culture of reform targeted these children with initiatives to instruct and control them. The producers spread their middling ideologies through a range of visual, fictional, and legal productions, all of which framed plebeian children as dependent and in need of education or training. Author Keywords: Children, Eighteenth-century, England, Material History, Plebeian, representations

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