The ordering of society

  • John Briggs
  • Christopher Harrison
  • Angus McInnes
  • David Vincent

Abstract

A. J. P. Taylor argues that one of the impacts of the demands of the First World War on civilian society was that “The history of the state and of the English people merged for the first time.” The proposal is that until then the state and Britain’s citizens inhabited separate spheres. This means that any exploration of the way in which society was ordered at the beginning of the nineteenth century cannot confine itself to a study of legal codes and the actions of officers of the law. It has to go beyond that and undertake the more subtle task of understanding how the much less easily defined forces of opinion, habit and aspiration affected people’s behaviour in a society that existed long before the emergence of the omni-competent state. W. L. Burn expresses it in these terms:

As its far-ranging missionaries of social discipline and progress [individualistic England] took the individual man and woman, impelled by their desire to better their condition in this world and to secure a crown of glory in the next. Behind them were the powerful voluntary agencies, the religious and philanthropic associations, the schools and universities, the hospitals, the innumerable societies for inducing people to do something or refrain from doing something else. In the third line was the State. That was the usual order but it was capable of alteration and on occasions the State moved into first place.

Keywords

Corn Depression Transportation Dine Nism 

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Copyright information

© John Briggs, Christopher Harrison, Angus McInnes, David Vincent 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Briggs
    • 1
  • Christopher Harrison
    • 1
  • Angus McInnes
    • 1
  • David Vincent
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KeeleUK

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