Forging the gypsy identity in Victorian England
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AbstractThis thesis examines the interplay among religious, political, scientific, and cultural constructions of gypsies in Victorian England. In the nineteenth century, evangelicals expanded their conversion efforts to include gypsies. While some evangelicals portrayed the gypsies as noble savages, other Christian reformers presented the gypsy as a model of wantonness. At this time, the social sciences and gypsiology emerged as distinct fields of inquiry. Gypsiologists divided gypsies into authentic and mongrel breeds, thus creating a contrasting image of the gypsy. The scientific invention of a criminal type, such as the gypsy, stimulated the bourgeois creation of a criminal class, which was validated through legislation. Victorian authors similarly sought to present their knowledge of the gypsy. The forging of the gypsy, however, reflected the bourgeoisie's preoccupation with the past, ranking humans, fears of decadence, and their need to confirm their superiority, which was rooted in notions of respectability and Englishness.
Bibliography: p. 128-139