The Area of Debate
THIRTY years ago the place of the state in the nineteenth-century British economy was a subject presenting few problems to the student of economic history. The few textbooks available to the undergraduate offered interpretations notable for their unanimity, and the learned journals were largely empty of controversy. The nineteenth century was viewed as an age dominated, as least until its final quarter, by the principle and practice of laissez-faire expressed in terms both of economic ideas and of social policy. ‘The less government intervention there was in any sphere the better.’4
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