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Living Liberalism

Practical Citizenship in Mid-Victorian Britain

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, Elaine Hadley 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. Living Liberalism 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, Hadley reveals an entirely new and unexpected prehistory of our modern liberal politics. A major revisionist account that alters our sense of the trajectory of liberalism, Living Liberalism revises our understanding of the presumption of the liberal subject.

400 pages | 6 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2010

History: British and Irish History

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


“Consistently intelligent and instructive, Living Liberalism exposes the contradictions that characterized mid-Victorian liberalism, as well as the frames of mind and practices it fostered.  Hadley’s treatments of the Fortnightly’s decision to promote signed articles, the debates surrounding the secret ballot, and the reasons opinion could be a form of agency ensure that this book will help reshape the landscape of Victorian studies.”

Mary Poovey, New York University

Table of Contents


Introduction: Politics as Unusual


1. Liberal Formalism in an Informal World

2. A Body of Thought: The Form of Liberal Individualism

3. A Frame of Mind: Signature Liberalism at the Fortnightly Review

4. Thinking Inside the Box: The Ballot and the Politics of Liberal Citizenship

5. Occupational Hazards: The Irishness of Liberal Opinion

6. A Body of Opinion: Gladstonian Liberalism




North American Conference on British Studies: Stansky Book Prize

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