Governing Rural England provides a new perspective on the process of state formation in modern England. It begins by identifying the complex ideological, cultural, and institutional influences which shaped the political provincialism of later Hanoverian England. In contrast to traditional accounts, which emphasized the ineffective, even oligarchic, character of the administration of rural England, David Eastwood demonstrates its effectiveness and capacity
to adapt, and uncovers the complex interplay between central and local institutions which lay at the heart of the late Hanoverian polity.By examining key areas of policy (poor law administration, police, crime and punishment) Dr Eastwood explains the ways in which new principles of
public administration combined with rapid social change to create a profound crisis in English local government in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The resolution of this crisis led to a diminution in the role and power of traditional governing elites in rural England. This complex reconfiguration of authority within the English state had a profound influence on the developing political culture and institutional framework of modern Britain.
`Eastwood's account of the working and reform of Quarter Sessions provides the most original and insightful sections of his book ... we must welcome the renewed attention to rural local government in this crucial period and hope that future studies will be as serious, sensitive and empirically well-grounded as this one.'
Continuity and Change
`What is surprising about Governing Rural England is that someone had not thought of exploring the reinvention of the late Hanoverian government before now. What Eastwood proposes seems so obvious...With remarkable clarity, Eastwood presents a new and important view of a critical period in English history...His interdisciplinary approach is a healthy antidote to traditional accounts. The monograph also benefits from a superb bibliography, a number of useful
tables, and an excellent index.'
`The general picture that emerges will not surprise those who have studied the subject; but they will find the book a rewarding one for all that. It is firmly based on practical detail; indeed, the amount of factual information packed into its pages is impressive. Not only is it an invaluable guide to the working of local government at the time, but it provides also an excellent survey of the current state of research in this field and of conflicting views
on certain issues.'
English Historical Review
`detailed and scholarly book ... This is an important book which goes some way towards filling the lamentable gap in local government studies in this period, It is based on meticulous research in local archives and it is in many ways a model of county studies ... for restoring the county dimension to political and social history David Eastwood and his book deserve our respect and gratitude.'
Frank O'Gorman, University of Manchester, Parliamentary History 96