An analysis of Brisbane society in the 1890's

Lawson, Ronald Lynton. (1970). An analysis of Brisbane society in the 1890's PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Lawson, Ronald Lynton.
Thesis Title An analysis of Brisbane society in the 1890's
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1970
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 2v
Language eng
Subjects 210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Formatted abstract

This thesis analyses the society of Brisbane, capital of Queensland, during the Intercensal period 1831-1901, In which time the population of the city Increased from 100,000 to 120,000 people. Both historical and sociological techniques and perspectives are employed.

Two themes are developed in detail. The first, the extent to which Brisbane had developed by this time as a heterogeneous urban society, is pursued via an analytic portrayal of life In the society. This examination of an Australian city, at a time when the continent was already probably the most highly urbanised In the world (in the sense of having the highest proportion of Its population living in a small number of urban centres), suggests that the emphasis which has been given the bushman by Australian historians is unwarranted.

The second theme is an examination of the nature and extent of social differentiation within the population. It is concluded that Brisbane society in the I890's, as all urban-Industrial societies, was stratified, and that the social structure is best conceived of as a continuous hierarchy of status positions, individuals and households were organised Into a series of "superior" and "inferior" ranks according to their status - the amount of esteem, or "social honour", which an Individual or family was accorded by the other members of the society. An Individual's social status, a complex, multifaceted entity, was best indicated, though not solely determined, by the prestige of his occupation, and with the reduction in opportunities for upward mobility following the depression and the abrupt curtailment of the massive immigrant flow, his status was becoming increasingly identified with that of his family of origin. A systematic investigation is made of the implications of a person's status for various other aspects of his life and the lives of his children. With this analysis of social stratification in Brisbane, the thesis enters the lists in the debate concerning the structure of Australian society - a debate in which Queensland has figured conspicuously. It is argued that the evidence commonly cited by "labour historians" - the emergence of mass trade unions, major industrial strife, and the rise of the Labour Party - does not warrant the conclusion that the society was split into two antagonistic social classes. On the other hand, the abundant evidence of social stratification compels the rejection of the opposing view- based upon a misinterpretation and overemphasis of the social legislation of the period, the concern for the "fair and reasonable", and the general repudiation of privilege and class distinction- that this was an egalitarian society. The social structure, rather, is most validly represented as a continuum of status positions which, although clustered in parts into status groups, was not cleft into two self-conscious, antagonistic, classes.

These themes of urban heterogeneity and social stratification inform the whole thesis. Two preliminary chapters consider the importance of cities in Australia, and particularly of Brisbane In Queensland, sketch the character and tone of Brisbane In the I890's and delineate its demographic structure. Then the broad shape and trends of the economy are examined as a basis for understanding the occupational structure, and from this the social structure. In the remainder of the thesis the spatial distribution of the population, family life and the plight of the needy, educational standards and opportunities, cultural and social life, and religion are analysed, revealing the complexity of Brisbane life, and at the same time illustrating the considerable differences which existed within the populace in these areas according to social status.

Keyword Social classes -- Queensland -- Brisbane
Brisbane (Qld.) -- Social conditions
Brisbane (Qld.) -- History -- 19th century

 
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