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An analysis of visual representations of finance during the Victorian era

Sless, H. J. (2019) An analysis of visual representations of finance during the Victorian era. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00089067


My thesis analyses visual representations of finance (primarily cartoons) during the Victorian era. Victorian finance has been covered extensively in academic literature, but there has been very little coverage of the impact of visual representations of finance during this period. My research is based on the digital archive of the British Library, and I use the lens of a cultural historian to complement the results obtained from the traditional written sources. This lens reflects the symbiotic relationship between publisher, editor, artist, and the reader. Finance is represented by the trust or mistrust that taxpayers experienced in the public and private arenas. During the Victorian period the Government’s aim was to convince taxpayers that repairing state finances after the Napoleonic Wars was possible through a combination of efficient government and administration of taxes (Public Trust). At the same time, there was a rapid increase in the numbers of Joint Stock companies which fuelled the Victorian economic expansion. Competing interests between shareholders, directors and consumers of these companies resulted in uneasy often litigious relationships (Private Trust). Over 800 images of finance were compiled, resulting in three research chapters on Financial crises (notably the City of Glasgow Bank failure of 1878), Men of Finance (using a dataset of caricatures compiled from Vanity Fair primarily), and Taxation (notably Sir William Harcourt’s 1894 Death Duties budget). The icons illustrate the ‘emotional discourse’ at play in relation to financial crises. Financiers were, contrary to literary depictions, accepted into High Society, as evidenced by their predominance amongst the professions caricatured in Vanity Fair. Repetition of tax icons is evidenced over the course of the whole Victorian period. Images of the 1894 budget represented almost one third of all the images of taxation.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Miskell, P.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Politics, Economics & International Relations
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Economics
ID Code:89067


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