University of Portsmouth's History Blog

James Greenwood – Social Reformer or Opportunist?

Rory Herbert, final year History student and President of the History Society at the University of Portsmouth, has written the following blog on the 19th century social investigator James Greenwood. Rory is Gale Ambassador at the university and contributes to The Gale Review Blog. The role of the Gale Ambassador is to increase awareness of the Gale primary source collections available to students at their university. The University of Portsmouth Library hosts a large collection of Gale primary sources which History students can use when undertaking archival research for their dissertations and other research projects.

James Greenwood was an author of relative obscurity who came to fame abruptly following the publication of his serial A Night in the Workhouse in the 1860s by the Pall Mall Gazette. He soon found himself rising through the ranks of the Victorian social ladder and became one of the leading social commentators of his age. This revolutionary piece saw Greenwood experience the conditions of a workhouse first-hand in one of the first examples of investigative journalism. Yet, while his work was quickly adopted by social reformers and critics alike, it seems the author himself was somewhat less interested in the people he claimed to support and, instead, focused on appealing to a wider audience.

To read the rest of Rory’s blog, click here.

Exterior of Whitechapel Workhouse. Image courtesy of Gale Primary Sources

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