By S. Cordery
The 1st monograph in this subject for the reason that 1961, this publication presents an cutting edge interpretation of the pleasant Societies in Britain from the views on social, gender and political background. It establishes the crucial position of the pleasant Societies within the political activism of British employees, altering understandings of masculinity and femininity, the ritualised expression of social tensions and the origins of the welfare country.
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Additional info for British Friendly Societies, 1750–1914
Eden observed functional similarities between the friendly societies of the late eighteenth century and the guilds. 31 The Austrian politician J. M. 32 Friendly societies also adopted elements of freemasonry, especially the emphasis on arcane rites, clandestine codes of conduct, and a hierarchy of authority. 33 A social and secret society recorded as early as 1745, the Oddfellows had split by 1800 into two separate orders, the Grand United and the Patriotic. ’35 Many friendly societies used ceremony and secrecy to insulate members from the wider society and to attract outsiders who might join to share the experience of being part of a unique group.
The bearer of the club banner led, followed by officers in rank order and then members, often grouped by age. Feast day was also a day for initiating new members, who might find themselves carried around the village in chairs. 148 These seem to have been primarily rural activities, though urban societies had feast days of varying complexity and public displays. In Oldham, Lancashire, for example, fifteen local societies met together for a feast day sermon in 1794. 150 The feast day figured large in the life of the village.
Members were required to attend, a duty some found onerous, or face fines, a tax less-gregarious members may have chosen to pay. ’164 A public-house society in County Durham met twice a year, meetings to which ‘no Member shall be allowed to send a proxy . 165 The same could be true of funeral processions, though there must have been some resistance to missing a day of work and thereby losing a day’s pay. 166 The funerals of members provided another, if less cheerful, occasion for processions. 168 Members attended funerals en masse, called to their duty by a sense of responsibility and the threat of fines for missing the occasions.
British Friendly Societies, 1750–1914 by S. Cordery