DOI link for Introduction
This chapter focuses on what Eileen Yeo has termed the ‘larger ecology of knowledge’ of urban Britain in the Victorian period. Manchester has loomed large in almost all of these literatures. As the ‘shock city’ of the age, it has been prominent as the focus of much of the writing which first sought to make sense of the new urban-industrial society. The social and especially the sanitary conditions of Manchester have frequently been taken as paradigmatic. In the first place, the early Victorian statistical moment as embodied by the Manchester Statistical Society was remarkably short-lived, driven by a particular conjunction of crisis and visibility in industrial society. The analysis of the social statisticians of the 1830s was primarily a factory analysis, its abstraction facilitated by an overriding focus on industrial relations in which an economic categorisation of individuals was extrapolated into a wider social description, and spatial issues were marginal.