Living LiberalismPractical Citizenship in Mid-Victorian Britain

Living LiberalismPractical Citizenship in Mid-Victorian Britain

Elaine Hadley

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226311883

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


In the mid-Victorian era, liberalism was a practical politics: it had a party, it informed legislation, and it had adherents who identified with and expressed it as opinion. It was also the first British political movement to depend more on people than property, and on opinion rather than interest. But how would these subjects of liberal politics actually live liberalism? To answer this question, this book focuses on the key concept of individuation—how it is embodied in politics and daily life and how it is expressed through opinion, discussion, and sincerity. These are concerns that have been absent from commentary on the liberal subject. This book argues that the properties of liberalism—citizenship, the vote, the candidate, and reform, among others—were developed in response to a chaotic and antagonistic world. In exploring how political liberalism imagined its impact on Victorian society, the book reveals an entirely new and unexpected prehistory of our modern liberal politics.