London Clubs in the Late Nineteenth Century

Apr 1999 | 028

Authors: Antonia Taddei

London clubs provided a means of establishing gentlemanly status and of making useful connections. Their number and membership was large. The paper begins with a quantitative overview of gentlemens clubs in London in the late nineteenth century using information contained in contemporary almanacs. The number of clubs and club members were characterised by two periods of intense growth, most significantly during 1860 to 1900, when total membership rose fourfold. This expansion, which exceeded that of the middle-class, was stimulated by the extension of democracy and the general political mobilisation during the Irish crisis in the 1880s. Political clubs became the largest type of club, and their characteristics and importance are examined in detail. A random sample of 200 individuals in Whos Who sheds light on the frequency of club membership among the elite. The growth of clubland was exhausted by the end of the century, in part because clubs devalued their own worth as a signal of gentlemanliness.

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