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Liberal Intellectuals and Public Culture in Modern Britain, 1815-1914

Liberal Intellectuals and Public Culture in Modern Britain, 1815-1914: Making Words Flesh

William C. Lubenow
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Liberal Intellectuals and Public Culture in Modern Britain, 1815-1914
    Book Description:

    Liberal Intellectuals and Public Culture in Modern Britain shows how liberal values reconstructed public space in Britain after the repeal of the Test and Corporations Acts (1828) and the passage of Catholic emancipation (1829). It traces the century-long process against subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles. It examines the emergence of the intellectual authority of the universities and the social authority of the professions. It shows how these changes gave different political and social opportunities for new families such as the Bensons, the Venns, the Stracheys and the Trevelyans. When the social moorings of the confessional state diminished new forms of association emerged to devise and promote liberal values as a distinctive form of cultural capital. This cultural capital - antique and modern letters, mathematics - filled the public sphere and provided the materials for intellectual change. The final chapters on Roman Catholicism and nationalism reveal the fragilities of this public culture. WILLIAM C. LUBENOW is Distinguished Professor of History at Stockton College, New Jersey. He is the author of The Politics of Government Growth, Parliamentary Politics and the Home Rule Crisis, and the Cambridge Apostles, 1820-1914.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-879-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Liberal values reconstructed public space in Britain after the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts (1828) and the passage of Catholic emancipation (1829). They were confident expressions of political and social experience. These values were not subject to narrow definitions. As Bertrand Russell said, ‘the essence of the Liberal out-look lies not in what opinions are held but in how they are held; instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively’.² These values created a vibrant governing temper in the long nineteenth century. Yet, when Maynard Keynes wrote the mordant phrase ‘the air whispered that the word was...

  6. 1 From Confessional Values to Liberal Values
    (pp. 9-28)

    On 13 April 1885 Gladstone wrote in his diary, ‘Dined at Grillion’s: alone’. He drank a bottle of champagne and wrote in the Club’s minute book upon leaving:

    Among the faithless, faithful only be.

    He added a passage fromParadise Lost:

    The mind is its own place, and in itself, Can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.²

    Gladstone was in the concluding months of his second government. Wrestling with the crises of Khartoum and Afghanistan, with home rule, the Cloud in the West yet ahead, he meditated on faithfulness in isolation. Lord Houghton added some lines...

  7. 2 The Fashioning of Liberal Values in the Universities and the Professions
    (pp. 29-56)

    Lying beneath the feeling Trevelyan expressed here (when he was sixty-eight) for the heyday of liberal values² are two facts this chapter charts: first, the emergence of intellectual authority in the universities; second, the emergence of social authority in the professions. Confessional tests had given reassuring shape to political and social behaviour. Without them people had to live in an indefinite, indeterminate world of their own making.

    The universities created different forms of intellectual authority in seed-beds, even hot-beds, of rivalry. Thomas Hughes described this highly contested mental world inTom Brown at Oxford: ‘[O]ne knows the worst of where...

  8. 3 A Different Regime of Social Worth
    (pp. 57-90)

    One cannot ignore the social consequences of the renovations in the universities and professions and the shifting and sliding in authority structures. Historians have described and explained the social change in Britain since 1815 in many ways. One of these traditions has been sociological, a tradition of class analysis and class conflict.² It is a tradition which fuelled profound and provocative research from the time of Marx to the time of EP Thompson. It exposed the structures of society and the relationship of those structures to political action and belief. Many a spear has been broken in the wars over...

  9. 4 Making Cultural Capital: Clubs, Societies, and New Forms of Binding Ties
    (pp. 91-126)

    In 1936 Keynes and Beatrice Webb spent more than an hour one evening arguing about the Soviet Union and the reconfiguration of modern society. Keynes wished to create an ‘aristocracy of intellect and emotions’ and he spoke of the importance of poetry, mental equilibrium, and faith. He admitted ‘that he himself had no faith and was still looking for one’.³ In all of this Keynes was continuing to struggle with a great intellectual and emotional problem of the nineteenth century: the dogmatic requirements of the confessional-fiscal-military state had provided ideological moorings and emotional anchoring for people in the public world,...

  10. 5 Cultural Capital: From Literalism to the Edge of Certainty
    (pp. 127-154)

    Liberal values constituted a kind of cultural capital which had the tendency to unravel problems and leave them in suspended animation. Sir John Lubbock Bt was aware that ‘the great ocean of truth lies undiscovered before us’, and hoped that a President of the Royal Society would take as the title for his annual address ‘The Things We Do Not Know’.² Francis Cornford, in the passage quoted above, indicated how what was known was extremely difficult to specify because it lurked dynamically in the processes of thought and action. This cultural capital opened out on a new physical and mental...

  11. 6 Limitations: Roman Catholicism
    (pp. 155-184)

    Sometimes, as Keynes pointed out, words do not become flesh. The cultural capital produced by liberal values had limitations. By bringing in Catholic emancipation in 1829 Peel and Wellington introduced two elements into British politics which proved inconsistent with liberal values. Roman Catholicism was one of them. Liberal values represented a liberation of powerful cultural impulses. According to the principles of some sort of linear logic, Roman Catholicism ought to have found a satisfactory niche in the pluralistic possibilities a post-confessional state offered. However, as open to exotic elements and unresolved experiences as they might have been, those possessed of...

  12. 7 Limitations: Nationalism
    (pp. 185-216)

    The question of nationalism, and especially Irish nationalism, raised the general problem of political authority, of whether politics – the ceaseless, endless competition for place and resources in modern society – was compatible with what was political – the drive for the common good.² Nationalism, since it was devoted to the liberation of oppressed peoples, could be articulated by some within the strictures of liberal values. But not by all. Nationalists, after all, valued resolution, accomplishment, and finality, and they often deplored the squalid compromises parliamentary life demanded. These were sentiments often inconsistent with liberal values. Moreover, facing oppressive political regimes, some nationalists...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 217-222)

    George Dangerfield wrote liberalism’s obituary in 1935.² He attributed the death of liberal values to the war, the campaign for women’s suffrage, and Ireland. These were events, and people, with which liberalism failed to contend. Dangerfield, however, did not fully appreciate the way liberal values had reconstructed civil society and had established institutions and attitudes which would persist into the twentieth century. The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and the passage of Catholic emancipation jettisoned the confessional state and created a different public space which required a different form of secular authority. The nineteenth-century universities and professions were...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-246)
  15. Index
    (pp. 247-252)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-253)