Chapter

Industrial Accidents and Novel Insurances

Paul Fyfe

in By Accident or Design

Published in print April 2015 | ISBN: 9780198732334
Published online May 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191796678 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732334.003.0004
Industrial Accidents and Novel Insurances

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)
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Few problems so plagued the industrializing city as fires. In the 1840s, on the uncertain ground of places like Manchester in England’s north, a diverse cohort of manufacturers, business agents, and writers struggled to deal with the challenges of prediction, valuation, and compensation that industrial fires uniquely raised. They comprise a broader discourse of risk management which includes insurance agents as well as novelists like Elizabeth Gaskell, whose novel Mary Barton defines accidents, liability, and compensation on its own terms. Although the Victorian novel would be denigrated for its ‘queer elements of the accidental and the arbitrary’ (in Henry James’s words), Gaskell’s example reveals how the novel absorbs accidents as a practice of the genre, very much related to its cultural interventions.

Keywords: Elizabeth Gaskell; Mary Barton; Victorian novel; insurance; industrial city; fire; probability; risk; loss; accident; genre

Chapter.  13998 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century) ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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