Egalitarian Greetings: The Social Spread of the Handshake in Urbanising Britain, 1700-1850

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Handshaking has a long multi-cultural history. This article focuses upon its diffusion in Britain 1700–1850. Two networks boosted the handshaking salutation. One was a mercantile network, extending across Europe’s urban/commercial regions. The other featured ‘middling sort’ Quaker men and women, who shook hands on principle. Gradually, the salutation became widely diffused – and acquired a range of egalitarian meanings. Handshaking was not an elite practice which ‘trickled down’ to the masses. Instead, it spread by social negotiation both ‘upwards’ and ‘downwards’ from middle-class society. Traditional hierarchy was yielding to an urbanizing and internationalizing world – with multiple individual options.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalUrban History
Early online date30 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 May 2024

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