This book challenges the view that there was a smooth and inevitable progression towards liberalism in early nineteenth-century England. It examines the argument used by the high Whigs that the landed aristocracy still had a positive contribution to make to the welfare of the people. This argument came under scrutiny as the laissez-faire state met with serious criticism in the 1830s and 1840s, when the majority of people proved unwilling to accept the `compromise'
forged between the middle classes and other sections of the landed elite, and mass movements for political and social reform proliferated. The Whigs' readiness to embrace these pressures kept them in
power for sixteen of the twenty-two years between 1830 and 1852, and allowed them to serve as the midwives of the `Victorian origins of the welfare state'. Drawing on a rich variety of original sources, including many country house archives, Peter Mandler paints a vivid composite picture of the high aristocracy at the peak of its wealth and power, and provides a provocative and original analysis of how their rejection of middle-class manners helped them to govern Britain
in two troubled decades of social unrest.
`a wide-ranging and provocative book, attractive to read, its argument powerfully and elegantly stated ... Mandler politely raps the knuckles of a number of historians ... The book certainly deserves to be widely read. It will lead to considerable discussion.'
H C G Matthew, Times Literary Supplement
`an interesting and original insight on the development of British politics in the 19th century'
Times Higher Education Supplement
'The Peel 'special subject' at Oxford has inspired many excellent monographs, among which Peter Mandler's book stands with the very best. This rich, original and entertaining study not only brilliantly reintegrates high and low politics but provokes an entire rethinking of the Age of Reform.'
A.C. Howe, London School of Economics, History, February 1992
'The Peel 'special subject' at Oxford has inspired many excellent monographs, among which Peter Mandler's book stands with the very best. Based on an exhaustive range of private and public archives, and thoroughly grounded in the contemporary and historical literature, this work substantially reinterprets our understanding of the Whig party in the supposed 'Age of Peel'.'
History, No.249, February 1992
'Dr Mandler's is an interesting hypothesis. Dr Mandler has re-emphasised the role of parliament and politics in this period, and led us firmly away from those who saw the reforms of the time, other than parliamentary reform itself, as some sort of inevitable process of social change. For that, and for the many other good things this thoroughly researched book contains, it is to be recommended.'
A.J. Heeson, University of Durham, Parliaments, Estates and Representation, Vol. 13, No. 1, June 1993
'Imaginative and based pon considerable research.'
Abraham D. Kriegel, Memphis State University, Journal of British Studies, July 1993
'Mandler has used an impressive range of manuscript sources and his examination of Whig correspondence contains much that is new, interesting and valuable;'
Norman Gash. Longport, Somerset. EHR Shorter Notices April '94