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Masculinity in Crisis: The Creation and Representation of British Manliness and Masculine Identity, 1890-1914

Coote, Ellana Diane (2024) Masculinity in Crisis: The Creation and Representation of British Manliness and Masculine Identity, 1890-1914. Master of Arts by Research (MARes) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.105527) (KAR id:105527)


Though the scholarship surrounding the history of masculinity, especially in Britain, has been broadening in recent decades, there are still many gaps. This thesis sets out to explore whether there was a crisis in masculinity and masculine identity at the turn of the twentieth century; in doing so, it explores the rise of militarism and shifting opinions towards soldiers, fears surrounding degeneracy, and the revival of chivalric ideals stemming from the nineteenth century. During a period of immense upheaval and uncertainty, particularly regarding the army and its efficiency after the Boer War, these areas are key in understanding the societal response to nationwide anxiety and insecurity. That the Boer War followed a decade characterised by decadence-typified by the trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895-did little to soothe Britain's fears over the state of its men. This becomes all the more important as the Great War was drawing closer, and would soon throw British masculinity into a new spotlight; recognising how the men of this period understood themselves and those around them, especially regarding the notion of masculine duty, is critical, and lends this study an importance beyond its specified years-particularly in the realm of Great War historiography. Accordingly, popular media such as books, periodicals, artwork, films, and plays offer fascinating and significant insights into the creation of masculine identities and expectations between 1890 and 1914. Critically, this thesis additionally takes into account the growth of transgressive identities alongside hegemonic expectations and considers the role of age and class in the formation of late Victorian and Edwardian masculine identity-two aspects often left underutilised in this area of scholarship, especially in conjunction with the aforementioned topics. Ultimately, it will become clear that though there was a 'crisis' in masculinity at this time, this was part of a series of crises stretching back into the nineteenth century and beyond in which men were often believed to be incapable of fulfilling their duties. Nevertheless, the crisis that came to a head between 1890 and 1914 was intensified by contemporary fears and failures, and is particularly noteworthy for all the hitherto unseen ways of conveying masculine ideologies (rising literacy and newfangled films offered new and larger audiences, for example) across society by the turn of the century.

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Arts by Research (MARes))
Thesis advisor: Donaldson, Peter
Thesis advisor: Hanna, Emma
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.105527
Uncontrolled keywords: history, masculinity, 19th century, 20th century, homosexuality, britain, british army, medievalism, chivalry, militarism, first world war, second boer war
Subjects: D History General and Old World
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2024 09:10 UTC
Last Modified: 08 May 2024 03:16 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Coote, Ellana Diane.

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