Marshall, William (2011) The creation of Yorkshireness: Cultural identities in Yorkshire c.1850-1918. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

THE rapid expansion, wider distribution and increased readership of print media in the latter half of the nineteenth century helped to foster the process that has been described as the nationalisation of English culture. In a parallel process, however, the same media could also be deployed to construct and to propagate regional cultures and identities. This thesis, concentrating on the period c.1850-1918, uses Yorkshire as a case study. The employment of county boundaries and structures as a delimitation for historical research can be questioned. But it is defensible in the case of the cultural study of a county that, in spite of its size, heterogeneity and industrial transformation, had acquired a set of identities and stereotypes which evolved during the early-modern period and were retained, refined and celebrated in the industrial age. Although it had no political basis, Yorkshireness remained a powerful sub-identity within England, the United Kingdom and the wider British world.

By examining the newspaper press, weekly periodicals, dialect almanacs and regional fiction, the thesis explores the evolution and the dissemination of Yorkshire’s cultural identity in an age of popular print. There is also an analysis of attempts to find a deterministic basis for Yorkshire character and a description of county societies in the UK and overseas. The evolution of folkloristic Yorkshire identities and symbols is traced, and illustrated dialect postcards of the early-twentieth century are analysed, on the grounds that they were a widely-transmitted source of Yorkshire stereotypes.

Individuals who played a role in the construction of Yorkshireness include the writer James Burnley, the folklorist and humorist Richard Blakeborough, the novelists Halliwell Sutcliffe and William Riley, the dialect writers Charles Rogers and John Hartley, the cartoonist Arthur North and the University of Leeds academic Professor Frederic Moorman, who conceived the project for eisteddfod equivalents in Yorkshire. The conclusion is that Victorian and Edwardian print media and illustrated ephemera were used extensively to construct and convey a sense of Yorkshireness, acting as a countervailing force to the tendency towards nationalisation of culture, and that in the absence of a fully negotiated concept of universal Englishness, county identity was an important factor at home and overseas.

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