Classics and Class (1615 - 2015)
Classics and Class in Britain (1789-1939) is an AHRC-funded research project based at King’s College, London. Our primary aim is to present and amplify the many lost voices of British working-class men and women who engaged with ancient Greek and Roman culture throughout the period. We intend to show the richness and diversity of the responses to ancient Greece and Rome among those who are often considered to have been excluded from it. By presenting their stories now, via our growing digital archive, we also hope that their example may inspire a more inclusive atmosphere for participation in classical culture across society today, when the increasing cost of university education in Britain has made it even more urgent to explore the popular perception of Classics as an elitist subject available only to the rich and privileged.
Our perception of the historical relationship between Classics and the divisions between citizens on the criterion of social class is distorted because the crucial voices–those of the working class–have yet to be heard. An exploratory conference organised by Edith Hall which was funded and hosted by the British Academy in July 2010 revealed that this ‘exclusionist’ model is usually taken for granted, and conventionally supported by a few passages in canonical 19th-century authors such as Dickens, Eliot, and Hardy. The meeting also underlined the neglect suffered by the evidence for contact with Classics produced by working-class people themselves (autobiographies, memoirs, letters, records of recreational activities, political banners, leaflets).