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The Victorian Legacy in Political Thought


Catherine Marshall and Stéphane Guy

The Victorian era was one that teemed with multitudinous and sometimes opposing visions of polity yet rarely questioned the very existence of the State. What might be called the pragmatism of the elite gave rise to a form of democratic compromise, allowing the growth of political ideas that may still be found in contemporary political thought.
Have reformist, socialist, liberal or utilitarian ideas avoided the dogmatism of twentieth century politics or paved the way to other forms of ideology? To what extent has the organization or gradual obliteration of the State been influenced by evolutionary theories, the quest for effective government and expertise or, more generally, refusal of the past? What was the impact of Victorian thinkers and ideas on the mutation of contemporary political ideas? Have we reached a post-Victorian period or are we still using a Victorian rhetoric as well as Victorian theories? Have we not, also, reached a stage in which retrieving some of those ideas might help to solve some of our contemporary political problems? The essays presented in this book all attempt to answer some of these questions and try to show how nineteenth century thought and culture have shaped British modern political debate and, for some, still continue to do so. It will prove useful to academics and the general public interested in contemporary politics as well as the history of ideas and political philosophy.
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The editors offer grateful acknowledgement to Professors Franck Lessay (University of the Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III) and Noel O’Sullivan (University of Hull) for their constant support and for having provided the inspiration for this collection of essays. From both sides of the Channel, they have guided us and helped our reflection on the subject throughout the years. May they receive our warmest thanks.

Our University – Cergy-Pontoise University – through our research centre – the CICC –, the University Trust, and our Faculty, have also greatly eased our work through the funding given for the conference which inspired this work and for the great contribution given to the publication of this book.

At our research centre, Arkiya Touadi provided invaluable support by guiding us through the funding system, helping to make the project come through at every single stage and by being such a thorough and devoted colleague.

We also benefited from the invaluable help of a team of students in the Master’s degree in Publishing and Communication studies in our University – Gladys Caré, Élodie Fiette, Iris Munsch and Tania Pruvost – who took on our project with great care. Our special thanks go to Iris Munsch who finalised the work, a year after it was started, and did so with great patience, rigour and consideration. We extend these warmest thanks to Professor Joanna Nowicki and Dr. Luciana Radut-Gaghi, who agreed to take on the project with their students and who were both generous with their time....

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