‘On a shiny night’: the representation of the English poacher, c.1830-1920

Ridgwell, Stephen John (2017) ‘On a shiny night’: the representation of the English poacher, c.1830-1920. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the representation of the English poacher from around the time of the reform to the Game Laws in 1831 to the ending of the First World War. Although a considerable body of work exists on nineteenth-century poaching, its representational aspects have yet to be fully explored. Moreover, existing studies have had little to say on poaching in the early years of the twentieth century. Set against the backdrop of the Edwardian Land Question the poacher, or more properly the idea of him, carried a far greater resonance than has been allowed for. Drawing on a wide range of literary and visual material, the work in hand offers a number of fresh perspectives on a significant figure in English culture and society.
Chapter One considers the evolution of poacher representations from c.1830 to the next round of Game Law reform in 1880. The poacher of these years was largely defined by what he was against and made victim of. By the end of this period, however, representations of the poacher were clearly starting to show more positive aspects. The next two chapters focus on the years between 1880 and 1900. Chapter Two provides context by examining the growingly heated politics of the land-game nexus and the reasons for poaching’s recorded decline. Chapter Three considers the implications of these developments by looking more specifically towards poacher representations. Here we see how the poacher was viewed increasingly in terms of what he did, and the skills and values he embodied, as much as for the laws he opposed. Chapter Four takes us through to the end of our period – a time when the shooting and preservation of game reached their historic peaks and when debates about the land were at also their height.
Focused on the production and consumption of ideas and images relating to the poacher, the central argument to be made is that during these years of profound social and economic change two clearly discernible developments occurred. First, the poacher came to occupy a more prominent place in English culture than hitherto had been the case; and second, he came to be represented in a number of more positive ways even as he remained on the wrong side of the law. This broadening representational palette served a surprising number of emotional and ideological needs and is suggestive of two further points. One, that the politics of the Game Laws - and thus of the poacher - carried greater importance than has previously been understood. And two, that existing accounts of ruralism’s role in shaping ideas of national identity in late-Victorian and Edwardian England have if anything been underplayed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England > DA129 By period > DA300 Modern, 1485- > DA550 Victorian era, 1837-1901
D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England > DA129 By period > DA300 Modern, 1485- > DA566 20th century
S Agriculture > SK Hunting sports
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2017 14:32
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2019 09:46
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/69667

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