The Making of British Socialism provides a new interpretation of the emergence of British socialism in the late nineteenth century, demonstrating that it was not a working-class movement demanding state action, but a creative campaign of political hope promoting social justice, personal transformation, and radical democracy. Mark Bevir shows that British socialists responded to the dilemmas of economics and faith against a background of diverse traditions, melding new economic theories opposed to capitalism with new theologies which argued that people were bound in divine fellowship.
Bevir utilizes an impressive range of sources to illuminate a number of historical questions: Why did the British Marxists follow a Tory aristocrat who dressed in a frock coat and top hat? Did the Fabians develop a new economic theory? What was the role of Christian theology and idealist philosophy in shaping socialist ideas? He explores debates about capitalism, revolution, the simple life, sexual relations, and utopian communities. He gives detailed accounts of the Marxists, Fabians, and ethical socialists, including famous authors such as William Morris and George Bernard Shaw. And he locates these socialists among a wide cast of colorful characters, including Karl Marx, Henry Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, and Oscar Wilde.
By showing how socialism combined established traditions and new ideas in order to respond to the changing world of the late nineteenth century, The Making of British Socialism turns aside long-held assumptions about the origins of a major movement.
"Bevir challenges both the old historiography of socialism and current conceptions of socialism based upon the older views. . . . Bevir accomplishes a good portion of his goals through a well-structured, closely argued text that incorporates the work of recent historians as well as the views of Marxists, Fabians, and moral socialists of the period of primary focus. . . . A valuable resource."—Choice
"Bevir has made a useful contribution to what should be considered a history in progress."—Keith Flett, Reviews in History
"An impressive array of different material is covered in detail. . . . [G]enerally the selection is very good. Overall, it is an excellent account for historians and others interested in the politics and economics of socialism in this period."—James Hall, Political Studies Review
"Bevir's account contributes much to the historiography of both the European Left and late Victorian Britain. It will also be read with benefit by those seeking to revive a seemingly stagnant socialist tradition."—Henry Reichman, Historian
"[T]his is an important, intelligent and provocative book, which deserves the careful attention of every student of British socialism. Impeccable and wide ranging in its scholarship, it is in many respects excellent."—Catherine Feely, European Review of History
"Considering Bevir's analytical approach and his original assessments of the ideology and practice of British socialism, his book ought to be seen as a valuable addition to the historiography."—Irina Suslina, European History Quarterly
"Mark Bevir has taken on a laudable task—to demonstrate that British socialism still has something to say. The historiography of the past thirty years seems to have argued socialism out of the picture, but Bevir restores it to its proper place. . . . [T]he book on the whole is written very clearly and presents a coherent and persuasive argument."—Anna Clark, Journal of Modern History
"By showing how socialism combined established traditions and new ideas in order to respond to the changing world of the late nineteenth century, The Making of British Socialism turns aside long-held assumptions about the origins of a major movement."—World Book Industry
"Its great strength lies in Bevir's skilful combination of the political and the personal, and the essentially personal moral nature and character of socialist belief. Its scope is impressive, taking in many of the facets of late nineteenth-century socialism and its antecedents. Bevir is writing to an extent to reclaim a socialist heritage, and to suggest how the past can point to future political activity, and this book forms a powerful and persuasive argument in that respect."—Daniel Renshaw, Socialist History
"Bevir's reassessment of key facets of late Victorian socialist political thought remains compelling. . . . [T]his is clearly an important intervention in the history of British socialist political thought. It corrects many misconceptions and simplifications about the various strands of early socialism."—Jon Lawrence, Victorian Studies
"This study of British socialist thought is a classic and is essential for any collection of key books on late nineteenth-century British socialism."—Chris Wrigley, Socialist History
"This important book offers a fresh perspective on the emergence of British socialist ideas in the late nineteenth century that is rich in historical insight and contemporary political relevance. Mark Bevir skillfully analyzes the complex ideological strands that were woven together to form the political thought of British socialism and he deftly corrects the numerous misunderstandings that have accumulated in the secondary literature. He takes the intellectual history of socialism in this period to a new level of sophistication."—Ben Jackson, University of Oxford