Canals in literature, 1760-1830
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis presents the results of an intensive study into literature of the years 1760-1830 to discover at what times and in what ways the building of England's narrow canal system, which occurred during these years, entered the writings of people at the time. All types of literature have been studied, from broadside ballads to promotional pamphlets to novels. Not all areas provided much material, but the absences were also of value in indicating which aspects of the canals were of interest to the general public, and which had limited interest. The most common types of literature differed with each stage of the development of the canals. This study is divided into sections which reflect the stages a canal was at when it was being written about, and consequently the attitude of the writers, and the assumed attitudes of their intended audiences, reflect the interest the public had in canals at that stage. These stages are Promotion, Construction, The Opening, and The Canals in Use. This study reveals that although the development of the canal system was a major factor in producing England's Industrial Revolution, surprisingly little notice was taken of it. The main group to be interested was the speculators, who invested their money and hoped to make a good profit; there were also some who saw the possibilities of canals and believed in them for their own sake, however most of the general public seemingly neither knew nor cared about artificial waterways. This is likely to be largely due to the class structure of England at the time; canals had strong connections with the working class and so were not popular with the nobility and upper-middle classes, who were the more literate members of society.