Discipline and Power: The University, History, and the Making of an English Elite, 1870-1930

Discipline and Power: The University, History, and the Making of an English Elite, 1870-1930

Discipline and Power: The University, History, and the Making of an English Elite, 1870-1930

Discipline and Power: The University, History, and the Making of an English Elite, 1870-1930

Synopsis

This book is an intellectual and cultural account of the growth of history as an undergraduate discipline at Oxford and Cambridge in the nineteenth century. History, the familiar centre of a broad Victorian consensus about God, country and good, provided the most consistent moral panorama able to satisfy a variety of intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic needs. The book argues that history was taught in English universities in generally Whiggish ways to develop a sense of national duty and loyalty in students. These students were all part of an elite, and most were destined for the civil service or for other professional or elite business careers. The author treats the cultural and political role of history and history-teaching in much greater depth and with greater incisiveness than has ever been done before, and in so doing, marshals together a great deal of new evidence.

Excerpt

From the 1860s Oxford and Cambridge universities became increasingly effective, dynamic forces in British national life. Different interests, multiplying as the century proceeded, clamored for agendas that they wanted the ancient universities to adopt. Governing bodies, professors, tutors, public school teachers, coaches, examiners, Parliamentary Commissioners, graduates, and the public held a variety of views, often conflicting, about the ends higher education should serve. But they all agreed that university teachers must prepare young men for the leadership of church, state, and empire. With a clear sense of their mission, Oxford and Cambridge were remarkably successful in turning out graduates who monopolized the dominant positions in public and private life in Britain and throughout its empire. One explanation for that success is that the universities conferred a new authority on ideas. The newly modern universities took competing concepts from within the university and from the outside world, subjected them to prevailing standards of acceptance, and dispatched them to the various agencies of influence. But there are few systematic explanations of why certain concepts triumphed over others, often independently of merit or utility. This book attempts to explain how a dominant ideology was cultivated and then certified and why it persisted as part of the structure of the old universities and of the new civic universities that imitated them.

The consensus that moved these universities to shape the opinions of a select governing group, and the decisive impact of this group upon national life, were relatively neglected by historians until the mid-1950s.

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