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19 Working Paper

The Strange Birth of Liberal England: Class, Religion, & the Market in the Making of the British Political Tradition

1989 – Peter Mandler


The consequences of the persistence of aristocratic power into the nineteenth century for the development of the British economy have been much discussed; this paper sketches out the less -well-explored consequences for the development of the British state, its ideology and functions. It examines the absorption of liberal ideas by the landed elite in some extra-Parliamentary spheres-religion, science and education, political economy-and shows how a distinctive reading of liberalism as supportive of the "natural order" in society and politics emerged in the early nineteenth century. It concludes with an outline of how this conservative reading of liberalism rather than some of the better known versions (the Manchester School, for example came to predominate in Britain's political development. Mandler is Associate Professor of History, Princeton University.