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Durham e-Theses
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The Victorian idea of Liberty

Ellwood, Norman (1976) The Victorian idea of Liberty. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis confines itself to an exposition of the ideas of liberty of a number of representative Nineteenth Century liberal theorists, a general appraisal of these ideas and a discussion of the fundamental aspects of the concept of liberty in the light of some recent thinking on the subject. The Nineteenth Century is referred to as the age of liberty, but no agreed ideology of liberty existed. The concept meant different things to different theorists. Earlier views of liberty emphasized the importance of individualism and a more negative application of the concept; while later views defended collectivism and a more positive interpretation of its use. There were also considerable differences of opinion about the advantages and disadvantages of the related ideas: democracy, equality and laissez-faire. Although the authors tended to believe in the idea of human progress, there was wide disagreement as to the best means of achieving it. For some, individual liberty was the way forward, while for others increasing regulation by government was desirable. The Victorian idea of liberty changed with the changing circumstances of the times, the later liberals seeing themselves as correcting and enlarging the earlier notion to meet the requirements of a new age. This study suggests that the political understanding of liberty is not something which can remain constant. It is inevitably subject to fluctuations intelligible only in the appropriate historical context.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1976
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:29

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