British Society, 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment, and Change

British Society, 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment, and Change

British Society, 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment, and Change

British Society, 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment, and Change

Synopsis

Richard Price offers a radical new interpretation of modern British history. He argues that the period 1680-1880 was a distinct era in British history, a dynamic period of much change but which was ultimately contained within clearly defined boundaries. Professor Price thus identifies the nineteenth century as the end of this period rather than the moment of modernity. Elegantly written and lucidly organized, this study will be of value to all scholars and students with an interest in this fascinating period.

Excerpt

When I have been asked to describe this book I have found myself saying “it is a general history, but it is not a textbook. ” By “a general history” I meanabook thatmakes anargumentabouta particularphaseof a society's history, but (unlike a textbook) a book that contains no ambition to offer a survey of social experience. I also mean that I have endeavored to produce a work that could be read with profit by persons with differing degrees of knowledge about the period the book covered. This is a book that I hope will interest experts in the many subspecialties of modern British history. Yet the book has not been written only for them. I have tried to make it accessible to less specialized audiences of students and others who might have the inclination to read what is undeniably an “academic” history.

The “general” character of the book was determined by the argument that developed in the course of its writing. the book presents the argument that the years from the end of the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth century composed a distinct stage in the history of modern Britain. This perspective presents the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in a very different light than most of the historical writing about those centuries. Yet it is a perspective, I would maintain, that provides a fuller understanding of both centuries than most conventional accounts; it illuminates more historical fact.

In order to make this argument I have engaged with much of the historiography of modern Britain. in addition, I have offered my own reckoning about large swathes of that history. I have done so through themes that are common to much of the historical writing of the period. Thus, I have endeavored to make coherent arguments about the structure of the imperial and domestic economies, about the organization of civil society, about the spatial distribution of administrative power between region and nation, about the stabilities and instabilities of gender relations, about the animating forces of the political order and about the dynamics of class and social relations. in doing this I have ventured across a historical landscape well traveled by those who have preceded me. My aim has been to shift the contours of that terrain a bit. ix . . .

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