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Poverty, Politics, and Roast Beef: Poor Relief and the Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain

Fri, September 16, 2011 | Tom Lea Rooms, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center 3.206

12:45 PM - 4:00 PM


In the 1830s and 1840s the British government forbade paupers from eating roast beef at festive occasions even in workhouses where the food would have been donated by philanthropists.  As the place of last resort for those dependent on welfare, workhouses offered only the basics necessary for survival.  Excluding paupers from celebrations firmly demarcated citizens entitled to roast beef from those deprived of participating in this ritual of national belonging.


Nadja Durbach is Associate Professor of History at the University of Utah and author of Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture (2009), and Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England (2005).  Her current project explores the symbolic and material importance of beef-eating to concepts of citizenship and national identity in nineteenth-century Britain.

Sponsored by: Faculty Seminar on British Studies

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