That noble science of politics : a study in nineteenth-century intellectual history


That noble science of politics : a study in nineteenth-century intellectual history

Stefan Collini, Donald Winch, John Burrow

Cambridge University Press, 1983

  • : pbk
  • : hard

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Includes bibliographical references and index



In this unusual and important work, three well-known historians of ideas examine the diverse forms taken in nineteenth-century Britain by the aspiration to develop what was then known as a 'science of politics'. This aspiration encompassed a more extensive and ambitious range of concerns than is implied by the modern term 'political science': in fact, as this book demonstrates, it remained the overarching category under which many nineteenth-century thinkers grouped their attempts to achieve systematic understanding of man's common life. As a result of both the over-concentration on closed abstract systems of thought and the intrusion of concerns which pervade much writing in the history of political theory and of the social sciences, these attempts have since been neglected or misrepresented. By deliberately avoiding such approaches, this book restores the subject to its centrality in the intellectual life and political culture of nineteenth-century Britain.


  • 1. The governing science: things political and the intellectual historian
  • 2. The system of the North: Dugald Stewart and his pupils
  • 3. Higher maxims: happiness versus wealth in Malthus and Ricardo
  • 4. The cause of good government: Philosophic Whigs versus Philosophic Radicals
  • 5. The tendencies of things: John Stuart Mill and the philosophic method
  • 6. Sense and circumstances: Bagehot and the nature of political understanding
  • 7. All that glitters: political science and the lessons of history
  • 8. The clue to the maze: the appeal of the Comparative Method
  • 9. Particular polities: political economy and the historical method
  • 10. The ordinary experience of civilised life: Sidgwick and the method of reflective analysis
  • 11. A separate science: polity and society in Marshall's economics.

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