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The development of professional services in nineteenth century county towns: a case study of the county towns of Stafford

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posted on 13.01.2010, 12:18 by Lynda May Holland
To date there appears to have been little academic research that concentrates on investigating nineteenth century professions and none that could be located which consider their role in relation to the development of small provincial towns during this period of occupational flux. For example Holmes (1982 ) and Corfield (1999 ) concentrate on profession in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; Abbott (1988) nineteenth and twentieth century profession in England, France and America and other researchers on the development of specific occupations such as medicine (Friedson 1970); accountancy (Matthews 2006); librarianship (Goode 1961) and although Larson’s (1977) research locates the beginning of professional mobilisation projects in the nineteenth century, it is primarily concerned with the twentieth. This research therefore explores how professional services developed in small English county towns during the nineteenth century and uses the county town of Stafford as its focus. It takes the form of a series of three interrelated case studies that move from providing a macro view of professional life and work in Stafford; to a more focused case study of one specific occupation, that of chemist/druggist; to investigating one particular Stafford family that for several generations had members who worked as chemists/druggists. This approach provides an overview of the type and level of professional services on offer in Stafford during this period along with an in-depth analysis of one particular occupation. Research results indicate that profession as a concept held little value for the folk of Stafford throughout the nineteenth century and that professional services in the town were slow to develop, even during a period of rapid population growth. A range of twentieth century research theories and frameworks for categorising profession were tested and appeared not to be appropriate for accurately identifying professional work at this time and a nineteenth century framework is proposed. The growth of educational opportunities throughout the century and the use of profession as a marketing tool are however found to be intrinsically linked to the growth of the concept of profession by the end of the nineteenth century.



Beck, V.

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University of Leicester

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