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Chains of Cross-Cultural Interdependence: London’s Luxury Restaurants in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Mansey, C. J. (2022). Chains of Cross-Cultural Interdependence: London’s Luxury Restaurants in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


As a result of cross-cultural taste transference and newly formed interdependences, luxury restaurants emerged in Victorian London. This coincided with the rise of the independent press industry in the capital, which began producing copy that appealed to audiences who laboured and leisured in these establishments. As such, this thesis, which seeks to be a work of historical relational sociology but inclusive of theoretical and thematic material taken from a range of social disciplines, discusses the topic of these restaurants and their operations by drawing on such press content. Attitudes and opinions from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are identified, so that the human figurations, specific to a novel and high-end culinary field, might be evaluated utilising the conceptualisations of Marx, Elias, Bourdieu, and Veblen.

Supported by an evaluation of food studies literature, this work proposes that the origins of the restaurant can be found in Paris. Due to the socio-political webbing that connected the two countries, the fashion of fine French dining became embedded in the English capital and the upper-class English habitus. ‘French’ food was glorified by a new generation of moneyed English gourmets, and ‘English’ food was subject to stigmatisation. The French chef came to be viewed as the epitome of the scientific artistry of food production. Conversely, English nationals were represented in the press as wasteful and innately bad at handling food. European waiters were also preferred to staff the dining rooms of these restaurants, with the English waiters described as being of the wrong class to serve high-end cuisine. While waiters who were young, single, and smart were favoured by employers, European waiters were seen to be economically more productive, and to possess superior language skills and training.

Chefs and waiters alike needed to operate in a field that seemed intent on stereotyping them, whilst also falling victim to the imposition of symbolically violent contradictory qualities and fetishes. These inequalities, coupled with low wages and precarious employment, lead to their unification and segregation both in terms of job role and nationality. Ultimately, “integration conflicts” (Elias, [1974] 2008:136) emerged as a result of the lengthening chains of European interdependence. Although war would temporarily reconfigure these chains, the English hospitality industry still holds many of the same biases as it did in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
City, University of London (-2022) > School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
[thumbnail of Mansey Thesis 2023 PDF-A.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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