Patrick Bryant ’16 – On behalf of the Wabash College Class of 2016′s freshman tutorial, Dark Satanic Mills, I wish you greetings from Manchester, England. I sit here this evening writing to you from a city in northwest England in which it is as famous for its soccer as it is its rain and fog. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and it turned out to be a very nice day which I would call partly cloudy and chilly.
It would be unfair for me to start talking about Dark Satanic Mills without first flashing back to the summer before freshman year. I, along with 11 other freshmen, selected this tutorial as an in-depth study of the industrial revolution and its consequences, including political, religious and social ramifications. We started the summer by first reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Mary Barton” to look at the division of social classes and the roles unions played in the politics of these mill towns. We are very fortunate to have two titans of Wabash working with us students to make this possible. First, our professor, Dr. Widdows for preparing us in class to ask questions, inspiring us to truly think critically on many of the same questions of economics and ethics that relate to industrialization, many of which are still present even today. A second deal of great thanks goes to Mr. John Schroeder, a generous alum of the college who is responsible for sending us on this trip.
Up to this point, the semester has included further reading on the meaning of capitalism through Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations,” a take on Manchester’s poverty through Friedrich Engels’s “Conditions of the English Working Class,” the role of an educated middle class in the battle of the classes in Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times,” and most recently a take on an “imperfect” group of mill owners battling personal struggle and questions as well as the politics and economic consequences of the time in Charlotte Bronte’s “Shirley.”
Now, here we are at the pinnacle of the class, our trip. Now the passions we’ve developed, the questions we’ve been asking, and the theories and answers we’ve been developing can be put to their truest tests. Before I go on, I must make a point to emphasize the extent to which this passion goes. We left around 1 p.m. on Friday afternoon on a bus to O’Hare with a direct flight leaving at 6pm in Chicago and arriving at 7am in Manchester on Saturday morning (2am Saturday morning in Crawfordsville). As I write this, I still have yet to go to sleep…unless 45 minutes or so over the north Atlantic counts.
Arriving Saturday morning, we were immediately greeted with the thick, humid, moist air of the foggy Manchester airport. Having never made it out of North America, I immediately found myself excited and shocked at the notion of a car driving on the left side of the road with its passenger on the right side. That could be a tutorial in and of itself.
On this exciting day here in Manchester, I’ve ridden on a train, gone through a few exhibits at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, and heard a few fellow classmates speak on the birth of rail transportation and the importance of steam engines for fuel. The day was capped off with a guided tour from a local in Manchester which lasted over two hours and truly showed us a city that had seen not only the growth of industry, but the writing of “The Communist Manifesto,” the first casualty of the English Civil War, and buildings that had to have been rebuilt after bombings during World War II. I call that a successful day.
I sit here writing to you physically tired, but intellectually stimulated and excited. Adrenaline and anticipation are definitely the orders for this. I’m currently digesting a meal of fish and chips covered in malt vinegar and salt. I must admit, my understanding of some British dialects here in the northwest is rather “rickety” at times, but all is on me to make sure that isn’t the case come the end of the week.
I and my classmates look forward to sharing more with you from “across the pond” and, until then, we wish you an enjoyful and restful break.
Patrick Bryant ’16