By Andrew Holman
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Extra resources for A Sense of Their Duty: Middle-Class Formation in Victorian Ontario Towns
Workers defined themselves in opposition to the ideal of idle wealth and poverty as much as they did against real self-styled gentlemen and paupers. In doing so, they reproduced in British North America a work ethic as distinctive for its abstract nature as for the zeal with which its proponents professed its necessity. This work ethic was current in Canada throughout the Victorian era, but its meaning changed subdy in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the 18505 and 6os, all kinds of work were equally laudatory and moral, but by the 18705 that conception had been modified.
16 Happily, these unavoidable problems need not be barriers to the serious study of the Victorian middle class in Canada. There are ways of seeing the middle class as it saw itself. Social scientific methodology and theory have been useful to social historians attempting to define the middle class in particular periods - especially in Europe and America in the nineteenth century. As a result, a number of paths of approach exist as guides for students of the intermediate stratum in history. " Each of these models has informed the work of historians, with varying degrees of success.
England is a European aristocracy, Canada is an American democracy. "3° However, the absence of an aristocracy in Canada did not make it a democracy of the sort the United States was perceived to be. The degree of levelling in that country, contemporaries believed, had produced a society thoroughly "vulgar," with a social scale too fluid and a social tone too hurried for the tastes of stolid Europeans and new Canadians. Canada was a democracy with ranks, and Canadians were democrats with a firm sense of social place.