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January 2011

Britain, benign & proud

by Anthony Daniels

On public virtue in the Victorian era.

A. J. P. Taylor’s famous book English History 1914–1945 begins:

Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. . . . He had no official number or identity card.

This was written in 1965. Exactly forty years later, another Oxford historian, Jose Harris, wrote in her Private Lives, Public Spirit: A Social History of Britain 1870–1914:

Nothing in the sociological theories of the period (or indeed of subsequent periods) quite prepares one for the extraordinary coexistence of extreme social inequality with respect for and observance of the law, of growing public order and defence of civil liberties.

I doubt that anyone will ...

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Anthony Daniels's most recent book is In Praise of Prejudice (Encounter Books).


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 29 January 2011, on page 85

Copyright © 2014 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com

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