This ambitious and wide-ranging book is about the relationship between liberalism and socialism in Britain in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It focuses largely on a group of intellectuals whose names are familiar but whose work has been neglected or misunderstood. Graham Wallas is the forgotten man of early Fabianism. L. T. Hobhouse has misleadingly been typecast as the last major exponent of a dying liberal tradition. J. A. Hobson's reputation has been obscured by repeated claims that he was a precursor either of the Leninist theory of imperialism or of the Keynesian revolution in economics. The historical work of J. L. and Barbara Hammond has suffered similar revenges from the whirligig of time. There are other liberals or socialists - notably Gilbert Murray, Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, R. H. Tawney and J. M. Keynes - who receive considerable attention. In the later chapters the economic approaches of Hobson and Keynes are disentangled and put in their proper historical setting.
'The book, which begins with Wallas and Hobhouse rejecting the church, ends with Barbara Hammond and Gilbert Murrray having doubts almost as severe about the modern world, and about trade unionism and working-class materialism. The presentation of the activity of thinking provides biographical threads to the book, and Clarke teases them out and plaits them with a skill in writing which conceals the historian's achievement in bringing together so much elusive and delicate material. The book is written with ease and is often amusing.' The Political Quarterly 'Dr Clarke's texture is rich, embracing as it does matters spiritual, emotional and corporeal, as well as professional and political. His judgement is sound, his writing stylish and not infrequently witty.' The Economic History Review '... a very fine book, a major advance in our understanding of the intellectual foundations of modern British politics.' The Times Literary Supplement 'When did you last read a deeply thoughtful book that lifted your spirit with unillusioned hope? Mr Clarke has written one. With an affection born of knowledge and the skill of literate scholarship, he makes these knotty men and women speak for themselves, his own voice an ever present 'by the way'; so giving us a work that is enchanting, vigorous, complex, readable and important beyond the praise or any review.' The New Republic '... an important contribution to the intellectual history of early twentieth-century Britain. It also throws important light on the enduring tensions in the relationship between the Liberal intelligentsia and the Labour movement, and hence on a crucial aspect of present-day British politics as well.' The Listener