A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People?: England 1783-1846

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Overview

This was a transformative period in English history. In 1783 the country was at one of the lowest points in its fortunes, having just lost its American colonies in warfare. By 1846 it was once more a great imperial nation, as well as the world's strongest power and dominant economy, having benefited from what has sometimes (if misleadingly) been called the "first industrial revolution." In the meantime it survived a decade of invasion fears, and emerged victorious from more than twenty years of "war to the death" against Napoleonic France. But if Britain's external fortunes were in the ascendant, the situation at home remained fraught with peril. The country's population was growing at a rate not experienced by any comparable former society, and its manufacturing towns especially were mushrooming into filthy, disease-ridden, gin-sodden hell-holes, in turn provoking the phantasmagoria of a mad, bad, and dangerous people. It is no wonder that these years should have experienced the most prolonged period of social unrest since the seventeenth century, or that the elite should have been in constant fear of a French-style revolution in England.

The governing classes responded to these new challenges and by the mid-nineteenth century the seeds of a settled two-party system and of a more socially interventionist state were both in evidence, though it would have been far too soon to say at that stage whether those seeds would take permanent root. Another consequence of these tensions was the intellectual engagement with society, as for example in the Romantic Movement, a literary phenomenon that brought English culture to the forefront of European attention for the first time. At the same time the country experienced the great religious revival, loosely described under the heading "evangelicalism." Slowly but surely, the raffish and rakish style of eighteenth-century society, having reached a peak in the Regency, then succumbed to the new norms of respectability popularly known as "Victorianism."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A model of the historian's art and a trailblazing marriage of intellectual and political history."—Atlantic Monthly

"Faced with an impossible task, Hilton's A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People?—immensely erudite, capacious yet with a distinctive voice, and written with considerable panache—is as outstanding contribution to a series whose approach to history...."—he New York Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199218912
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Series: New Oxford History of England Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 784
  • Sales rank: 1,145,556
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Boyd Hilton is Professor of Modern British History in the University of Cambridge and has been a Fellow of Trinity College since 1974. He has served as Senior Tutor, Dean, and Steward of the College. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy.

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Table of Contents

1. England 1783-1846: An Overview
2. Politics in the Time of Pitt and Fox 1783-1807
3. Pitt and Plutocracy: The Social and Psychological Foundations
4. Politics in the Time of Liverpool and Canning 1807-1827
5. Ruling Ideologies
6. The Crisis of the Old Order 1827-1832
7. Contesting Mechanical Philosophy
8. Politics in the Time of Melbourne and Peel 1833-1846
9. The Condition and Reconditioning of England
10. Afterwards: 'There are no barbarians any longer.'
Bibliography
Index

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