Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The purpose of this thesis is to explain the cotton famine and resulting relief legislation as an example of attitudes characteristic of the mid-Victorian period. It is at times easier to understand a period of history by investigating a specific, readily defined event through the primary and secondary source material available and to interpret that period in terms of the forces involved in shaping the event. This reasoning is only valid, however, if the event is truly representative of the thought and behavior of the period. In my estimation the cotton famine was indeed representative, and it will be my task to demonstrate that parliamentary action was a clear example of the legislative application of the ideals of an age.

The procedure will be to examine industrial conditions, especially in the cotton industry, and to record the events of the famine itself. Mid-Victorian attitudes in general will be discussed, and arguments offered by members of Parliament for and against cotton famine relief legislation will be explained in the light of prevailing social, political, and economic theories and attitudes.