Literary Sociability on the Goldfields: The Mechanics’ Institute in the Colony of Victoria, 1854-1870

Title: Literary Sociability on the Goldfields: The Mechanics’ Institute in the Colony of Victoria, 1854-1870
Authors: Comyn, Sarah
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Date: 31-Jul-2018
Online since: 2019-05-13T11:09:49Z
Abstract: Examining the connections between the social and economic aspects of mechanics’ institutes in their gold-rush settings of colonial Victoria, Australia, this article situates literary sociability at the heart of the institute’s function. Through an analysis of colonial newspaper reports and the surviving archives of five gold-rush era institutes (Ballaarat, Beechworth, Chiltern, Sandhurst and Stanley), it demonstrates how events like popular readings, lecture series and soirées worked to create a cohesive community in a diverse society. While the gold rush provided the economic means by which these institutions could be formed and their buildings erected, the institutes in turn lent a social and economic propriety to these growing settlements. This article argues that these popular, social events were crucial not only to the cultural and economic functions the mechanics’ institutes began to serve in the goldfields but also the role of moral, social and educational improvement that these institutes and their founding members envisioned themselves as playing. Excavating the hitherto ignored roles of women in these early settlements, this article examines women’s significance as markers of colonial respectability, while revealing the vital financial contribution they made to these institutes through the social events they organized.
Funding Details: European Commission Horizon 2020
European Research Council
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
Journal: Journal of Victorian Culture
Volume: 23
Issue: 4
Start page: 447
End page: 462
Copyright (published version): 2018 Leeds Trinity University
Keywords: Mechanics’ institutesAssociational cultureLiterary sociabilityRespectabilityAustralian colonial culturePopular readingsPopular lecturingAustralian goldfields
DOI: 10.1093/jvcult/vcy052
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:English, Drama & Film Research Collection

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