Victorian England: Aspects of English and Imperial History, 1837-1901

By L. C. B. Seaman | Go to book overview

14


Death of Liberal England

If you once desert the solid ground of individual freedom, you can find no resting place till you reach the chasm of Socialism.

A. W. DICEY,
Fortnightly Review, October 1885

…that vast portion…of the working class which, raw and half-developed, has long been half-hidden amidst its poverty and squalor, and is now issuing from its hiding place to assert an Englishman’s heaven-born privilege of doing as he likes, and is beginning to perplex us by marching where it likes, meeting where it likes, bawling what it likes, breaking what it likes….

MATTHEW ARNOLD,
Culture and Anarchy, p. 105

Socially and politically, the late Victorians never escaped from the shadow of the Second Reform Act. The affair of the Hyde Park Railings and Disraeli’s subsequent ‘leap in the dark’ shook the morale of all who were not radicals almost as much as did the uncertain fortunes of wheat and coal and textiles. For the rest of the century they drifted rather despondently along in the direction to which the act had pointed them, allowing themselves to be dragged towards Democracy, and what they were pleased to call ‘Socialism’, in the hope that if they did not struggle too much they might somehow manage to keep afloat. In a sense it was fortunate for them that Gladstone, though he talked so often about the virtues of ‘the masses’, diverted everybody’s political attention in the 1880s to the Irish question and in doing so left Liberalism without a head and Radicalism

-280-

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Victorian England: Aspects of English and Imperial History, 1837-1901
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - People of the Book 4
  • 2 - Age of Steam 25
  • 3 - Disease and Drudgery 41
  • 4 - Lord John and Sir Robert 62
  • 5 - Patriotism Prevails 82
  • 6 - Lord Pumicestone 103
  • 7 - The People's Darling 124
  • 8 - Leap in the Dark 153
  • 9 - Towards a Modern State 168
  • 10 - Towards a Modern State 189
  • 11 - Beaconsfieldism and Midlothianism 206
  • 12 - Cloud in the West 232
  • 13 - The Great Depression: Fact and Fiction 262
  • 14 - Death of Liberal England 280
  • 15 - Birth of the Twentieth Century 299
  • 16 - Imperial Pre-Eminence 331
  • 17 - African Scramble 354
  • 18 - A Clash of Empires 375
  • 19 - Recessional 397
  • 20 - New Ways for Old 416
  • 21 - Queen and Mother 435
  • Index 463
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