The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, Paperback Book

The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes Paperback

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Now in its second edition, this landmark book provides an intellectual history of the British working classes from the preindustrial era to the twentieth century.

Drawing on workers' memoirs, social surveys, library registers, and more, Jonathan Rose discovers which books people read, how they educated themselves, and what they knew.

A new preface uncovers the author's journey into labor history, and its rewarding link to intellectual history.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 544 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Social & cultural history
  • ISBN: 9780300153651

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This book is written with a consistent lilt and heft that complement each other so well; I am enjoying it as much as any other I have ever come across. It is a model of how to write a thoroughly engaging study of a serious subject. Professor Rose set out “to enter the minds of ordinary readers in history, to discover what they read and how they read it”. That label “ordinary” is just the author’s shorthand in his preface and the work that follows shows his deep respect for the many people from a wide variety of working-class backgrounds whose autobiographical material contributes so much to the overall picture. The subject is covered through a vast and always relevant body of research, generating a Notes section of 53 and a comprehensive Index of names and institutions of 16 of the 543 pages.Chapter headings like ‘Cultural Literacy in the Classic Slum’ and ‘What was Leonard Bast Really Like?’ are a delight in themselves, together with paragraphs that begin with seductive observations such as, “Radical politics were not incompatible with strict sexual puritanism.” or, “We must therefore break the habit of treating high culture and popular culture as two distinct categories with mutually exclusive audiences.”. If anything in the title is of interest, this book will be a guaranteed “good read”.