The Territories of Youth

17 May

I will be adding a fair few titles to my bibliography on larrikinism shortly. This is largely because I have been working my way through a fabulous PhD thesis by Simon Sleight from Monash University, called ‘The Territories of Youth: Young People and Public Space in Melbourne, 1870-1901’, a work oozing research leads and suggestions for secondary reading.

‘The Territories of Youth’ looks at the way young people used the outdoor spaces of Melbourne in the late nineteenth century. It has a chapter specifically on larrikins (soon to appear as an article in Australian Historical Studies) called ‘Interstitial acts: urban space and the larrikin repertoire’.

Sleight essentially shows that larrikin used vacant lots, marketplaces and street corners throughout inner Melbourne for the performance of rebellious youthfulness – something that obviously complements my own work on their interaction with theatrical and other performance genres, and the way this played out in turn-of-the-century streets. The article when it appears in Australian Historical Studies will be worth a read. The broader thesis also maps the trajectories of many working-class children through the streets of Melbourne, providing an intimate glimpse into their city at the time.

gangs of manchester

The reason I came across Simon’s thesis was that I fortuitously met him at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in London recently. He is planning future research looking comparatively at Melbourne and Liverpool delinquency at the turn of the twentieth century. And he has also directed me to the fabulous work of Andrew Davies, author of The Gangs of Manchester (the cover image for which appears above) and a soon-to-be-perfomed play on the subject, Angels With Manky Faces. (I’ncidentally, I’d never known until hearing this that the word ‘manky’, which I grew up using to mean ‘wonky’ or ‘wrong’, was an insult to the good citizens of Manchester).

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3 Responses to “The Territories of Youth”

  1. Lefty E 18 May 2009 at 2:55 am #

    ‘manky’ – interesting. I was well into my 20s before I worked out the (forehead-slappingly obvious) origin of ‘paddy wagon’.

    And you know you’re on the right track with a research project when timely coincidences like these happen. The Gangs of Mnchester sound cool! Might even get a popular readership.

    • Melissa Bellanta 19 May 2009 at 3:30 am #

      Re paddy wagons: I was in my 20s too! -an Irish friend who was both surprised and displeased pointed out the error of my ways. A sobering moment, that one.

  2. CathyG 29 July 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Manky is still used in Manchester/Salford and surrounds to describe something as grubby or physically unpleasant so it can’t be that much of an insult! Really enjoy your blog BTW.

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