The Mid-Victorian Generation, 1846-1886

The Mid-Victorian Generation, 1846-1886

The Mid-Victorian Generation, 1846-1886

The Mid-Victorian Generation, 1846-1886

Synopsis

This, the third volume to appear in the New Oxford History of England, covers the period from the repeal of the Corn Laws to the dramatic failure of Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill. In his magisterial study of the mid-Victorian generation, Theo Hoppen identifies three defining themes. The first he calls 'established industrialism' - the growing acceptance that factory life and manufacturing had come to stay. It was during these four decades that the balance of employment shifted irrevocably. For the first time in history, more people were employed in industry than worked on the land. The second concerns the 'multiple national identities' of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Dr Hoppen's study of the histories of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Empire reveals the existence of a variety of particular and overlapping national traditions flourishing alongside the increasingly influential structure of the unitary state. The third defining theme is that of 'interlocking spheres' which the author uses to illuminate the formation of public culture in the period. This, he argues, was generated not by a series of influences operating independently from each other, but by a variety of intermeshed political, economic, scientific, literary and artistic developments. This original and authoritative book will define these pivotal forty years in British history for the next generation.

Excerpt

The first volume of SirGeorge Clark Oxford History of England was published in 1934. Undertaking the General Editorship of a New Oxford History of England forty-five years later it was hard not to feel overshadowed by its powerful influence and well-deserved status. Some of Clark's volumes (his own among them) were brilliant individual achievements, hard to rival and impossible to match. Of course, he and his readers shared a broad sense of the purpose and direction of such books. His successor can no longer be sure of doing that. The building-blocks of the story, its reasonable and meaningful demarcations and divisions, the continuities and discontinuities, the priorities of different varieties of history, the place of narrative--all these things are now much harder to agree upon. We now know much more about many things, and think about what we know in different ways. It is not surprising that historians now sometimes seem unsure about the audience to which their scholarship and writing are addressed.

In the end, authors should be left to write their own books. None the less, the New Oxford History of England is intended to be more than a collection of discrete or idiosyncratic histories in chronological order. Its aim is to give an account of the development of our country in time. It is hard to treat that development as just the history which unfolds within the precise boundaries of England, and a mistake to suggest that this implies a neglect of the histories of the Scots, Irish, and Welsh. Yet the institutional core of the story which runs from Anglo-Saxon times to our own is the story of a state- structure built round the English monarchy and its effective successor, the Crown in Parliament, and that provides the only continuous articulation of the history of peoples we today call British. It follows that there must be uneven and sometimes discontinous treatment of much of the history of those peoples. The state story remains, nevertheless, an intelligible thread and to me appears still to justify the title both of this series and that of its predecessor.

If the attention given to the other kingdoms and the principality of Wales must reflect in this series their changing relationship to that central theme, this is not only way in which the emphasis of individual volumes will be different. Each author has been asked to bring forward what he or she sees as the most important topics explaining the history under study, taking account of the present state of historical knowledge, drawing attention to areas of dispute and to matters on which final judgement is at present . . .

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