The aim of this thesis is to analyse the impact of the ownership and management of housing on the experience of power relations in Victorian and Edwardian rural society. While the existing historiography focuses on the physical quality of the housing stock this thesis explores the part that control over housing played in social relationships, including those between cottage owners and their tenants, landowners and smaller proprietors, and farmers and their labourers. These issues are examined at a local level through a study of the contrasting counties of Dorset and Leicestershire. The former is a predominantly agricultural county in southern England that was dominated by large landed estates, while the latter is a semi-industrialised county of the East Midlands. An extensive range of primary source material has been examined to explore four key aspects of this subject. The first is the pattern of house ownership, which is discussed through a quantitative analysis of valuation list material to draw out spatial contrasts and changes over time. This data is also used to scrutinise the open and close parish model of rural society. Secondly, the importance of the survival of archaic cottage tenures for the 'independence' of cottage tenants is assessed, along with their impact on the power of the landed classes. The third aspect is the provision and management of estate housing, including an evaluation of the extent to which this can be interpreted as a reflection of landlord paternalism. Finally, an analysis is made of the supply of housing by local government in order to examine the relationships between local elites and the poor, and between central and local government. Overall, therefore, this thesis highlights the need to integrate the study of the ownership and management of housing into the wider history of social relations in the English countryside
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