Nineteenth-Century Business, Labour, Trade & Temperance Periodicals

Welcome to BLT19!

The BLT19 Project (19th-century Business, Labour, Trade & Temperance), run by Professor Andrew King at the University of Greenwich, is concerned to help us understand the history of how we think of “work” – what it is, what values we associate with it (and what we don’t), and where our ideas about work come from.

Work comprises a central preoccupation of the news media today: employment figures, gender, class and ethnic inequalities, job losses and job creation are constant features. In the fictions of films and television, the intersection of work and private life often forms the core of the drama, from Casuality to Star Trek.  Under the guise of “employability,” work is a core preoccupation of universities and schools. There is a great deal of academic research on work in sociology and business studies, as well as in history, but there has been almost none on how conceptions of work and its practices were formulated and disseminated through the Victorian periodical press.

To promote this understanding we have digitised Victorian periodicals that are hard or even impossible to find elsewhere. Some are connected to specific trades or professions, while others, like the British Workman or British Workwoman, much more generally extol the virtues of work and keeping a clear head so as to do it better. 

Unlike other sites we are entirely free. Partially supported by the University of Greenwich, we’ve tried at all times to do the most for the least amount of money, avoiding expensive web development or digitisation processes. We are always adding more as time and materials allow.

Unlike commercial sites, BLT19 has only the resources to digitise partial runs of selected nineteenth-century periodicals, even if many of them are very rare or even unique. Unlike them too, we have been very intent on enriching the sites in various ways to help us understand them and see how they relate to us, through explanatory essays, blog posts, image galleries, teaching materials, records of the creative work and exhibitions we’ve put on, and not least fiction (we believe fiction is a great way to show understanding).

We are also very concerned to show how different on-screen formats will suggest different understandings of and conclusions about the same original materials. While we are concerned with how we came to think about “work,” we are very conscious that the form of the media as well as its content influences us. That was the case with Victorian periodicals and it’s the same now: the effects of the micro-stories that Twitter tells are very different from a rich site like this!

We hope the site encourages you to think about how our attitudes to “work” and what stories we can tell about it have always been influenced by the media. Whether we are thinking about housework or running a stationery shop, how temperance played a role in regulating work, what the army and navy do, child labour or running a distribution centre for agricultural machinery, it’s all here, and a lot more besides.

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British Workman 1.15 (1856): 60.