The Waning of 'Old Corruption': The Politics of Economical Reform in Britain, 1779-1846

Synopsis

Most historians of Britain now take for granted that a narrow and mostly landed elite managed to retain its social supremacy throughout much of the nineteenth century. But as yet, there is no throrough explanation for the persistence of the old elite's political authority in an age when that authority was seriously questioned by many Britons. In this original study, Philip Harling furnishes an important part of this explanation. He argues that the mostly Pittite governing elite helped to allay the suspicions of parasitism at the root of the familiar critique of 'Old Corruption' by responding to intense pressure to sanitize government.