After the freeholder: Republican and liberal themes in the works of Samuel Laing
Modern Intellectual History
Cambridge University Press
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Betts, J. (2017). After the freeholder: Republican and liberal themes in the works of Samuel Laing. Modern Intellectual History, 1-30. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1479244317000154
Samuel Laing was a key figure in propagating both an academically respectable defense of peasant proprietors and a critique of bureaucratic central government in Victorian Britain, his writings cited and argued with by John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Walter Bagehot, and John Austin (among others). This article corrects misapprehensions that Laing was a libertarian apologist for unfettered commercialism and complacent patriotism. It situates Laing in his argumentative contexts to show him as a critic of conventional political economy who called for a “natural” society of self-governing freeholders like that he observed in Norway, but who gradually became ambivalently caught between a British commercial and aristocratic order and a Continental model of greater property diffusion and strong central government. Laing's story sheds new light on the complex afterlives of republican and civic themes in nineteenth-century Britain, and their interaction with emergent concerns over the dangers to active citizenship of both wage labor in international markets and centralizing bureaucracies.
The research for this article was supported by funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007– 2013), ERC grant agreement no 295463.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1479244317000154
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/265051