|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.
CHAPTER SIX: THE LATE NINETEENTH AND EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURIES.
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I shall look first at those groups centred around the London Vegetarian Society, and particularly around its chairman Arnold Hills. Hills was a wealthy manufacturer and owner of the Thames Iron Works, one of the leading shipbuilders of the 1890's, and his background was thus far from typical of vegetarianism. (1) He was active in a number of philanthropic schemes among his workforce and more generally in Canning Town. (2) A conservative and a strong opponent of the unions, he was involved in a long conflict, leading to a strike, over unionisation, though he subsequently instituted a profit-sharing scheme. Though the nineties were for the company a period of great prosperity, decline set in through the general movement of shipbuilding away from the Thames, and the works were closed in 1911. Hills was a great benefactor of the vegetarian cause, playing a similar role to that of Simpson, and this, together with his impulsive and enthusiastic character, enabled him to dominate the London Vegetarian Society.
Hills was particularly interested in the virtues of raw food, and his Vital Food in which he argued that uncooked food has certain living qualities conducive to health and spiritual well-being, is one of the early examples of what was to become a major theme in vegetarian tradition. (3) The Salford vegetarians by contrast had placed little emphasis on rawness, though it was strongly favoured at the Concordium.
Hills had been an athlete, and he and the London group were particularly concerned to break down the link in the public mind between meat-eating and muscular strength. Athletes at this time were fed an almost exclusively meat diet, and vegetarianism was believed to be a lowering regime, suitable at best only for the sedentary. (4) They encouraged vegetarian cycling groups and publicised the athletic and sporting successes of vegetarians. (5) Such achievements and records become an established feature of vegetarian journals from this period onwards, and Mansell, a foreman at the Thames Iron Works, added his testimony in his Vegetarianism and Manual Labour, to the capacity of vegetarian workers at Hill's works to undertake the more physically demanding work. (6)
The association with temperance continues, though in tune with changes in the temperance movement itself, with a more middle-class and established flavour. It was common at this time for middle-class progressives to be tee-total. Vegetarian restaurants did not provide alcohol, and vegetarian food was sometimes served in the new Temperance Coffee Houses. The old belief in an organic link between meat and the desire for alcohol, which was held in orthodox medical circles also, (7) was taken up by Brarnwell Booth and his wife who became vegetarians and encouraged the use of the diet in the treatment of inebriates. (8) It was still being used in Salvation Army institutions in the 1920's. (9)
The widespread poverty of the great cities that had been revealed in a series of accounts from the Bitter Cry of Outcast England, to the reports of Charles Booth and culminating in William Booth's Through Darkest England, provoked a response among the vegetarians, as among others of the philanthropically minded. The causes of poverty became a central question and one that provoked new answers, some of which attempted to go beyond simple ideas of improvidence. The issue concerned the vegetarians in particular because they believed that they knew the practical means whereby the poor might be fed, and in a series of dinners, conferences etc., they put forward the economic advantages of the diet. (10) Books like How to Live on a Shilling a Week by 'one who has tried it', and The Best Diet for a Working Man reinforced this message. (11) The vegetarians were also involved in the provision of free dinners at some of the London Board schools. (12) In this concern there is a slight shift in tone between the first and second periods of vegetarianism; the testimonials by working men to its financial advantages and aid to independence become fewer, and the economic argument is presented more often than before in terms of advice to the poor, something deplored by Henry Salt. (13)
One group in particular in this London context took up a central image in vegetarianism, that of the return to Eden. These were the Danielites, (14) a group founded by Lt.T.W. Richardson (15) in 1876, and having an overlap of membership with the London Vegetarian Society. The Garden of Eden was their model, (16) and in the Preamble to their Rules, the role of eating in Man's Fall is made clear. (17) It was essentially a social group, and their magazine (18) is light in tone, with references to dances, character-dress performances, discussions, garden parties and theatricals. Their meetings involved various ceremonials. With their interest in dressing up, in pageantry and in pretty garden imagery, they resemble the 'simple' and 'artistic' circles of Bedford Park, and of the 'Queen Anne' movement. (19)