Society

The very word 'society' carries a much deeper meaning to inhabitants of the 19th century than we of the 21st. To a Victorian gentleman, the word 'society' is inseparable from civilization or empire.

It is all too easy to think of the Victorian era as a lot of nice, respectable, red-faced old men creating modern industry and chasing and singing pickpockets. Such a conception is far from the truth. The entire economy of the civilized world relies on exploiting the lower class and using foreign workforces as slave labor. This is commonly accepted by the lower classes as 'just the way things are'. The inhabitants of conquered lands are not so forgiving. Revolutionaries plot the downfall of European society, a sweeping away of the social cancer.

Beneath the respectable veneer of middle class society that popular history has recorded for us, the Victorian world concealed a hideous mass of poverty, inequality, depravity and injustice. A good key phrase for this setting could be 'out of sight, out of mind'. However, it was also an age of invention and pioneering sprint. The Victorians were far from the stuffy prudes many people believe them to be. They craved sensation and spectacle, and the age provided both in abundance.

The society of England and Europe is split into three levels: the upper, middle, and lower or 'working' classes. Each of these groups have its own ethics, ideals and etiquette. Players and Staff need to understand the class system of Europe, as it will be one of the most, if not the most, dominating factors in the lives of their characters and the supporting cast around them. It is important to note that there is little or no social mobility in Victorian society. Everyone, high or low, knows their place, but is also proud of the perceived virtues of their class. Few people want to change, seeing (and often complaining about) the flaws inherent in the other classes.

The theory is that class status reflects indefinable but substantial differences in breeding. It would be unthinkable for a businessman with humble origins to socialize within the aristocracy, no matter how successful he had been, as his breeding would be considered inferior. Social class controls a European's childhood and defines his career, where he can live — even who he can marry. The study of Victorian society and values can (and does) take up shelves of books in most libraries; to attempt a reprint of all that material here would be fruitless. Following are some guidelines for each of the social groups, which should give you a good idea how the classes view and interact with one another. Fort hose who require more information on this social structure, there are some very informative sources listed in the Source Material.