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By Accident or DesignWriting the Victorian Metropolis$
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Paul Fyfe

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732334.001.0001

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Industrial Accidents and Novel Insurances

Industrial Accidents and Novel Insurances

Chapter:
(p.100) 3 Industrial Accidents and Novel Insurances
Source:
By Accident or Design
Author(s):

Paul Fyfe

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732334.003.0004

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

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